Planet Golf — 04 August 2013 by GW staff and news services
Tiger crushes Bridgestone field

AKRON, Ohio — They say par is a good score in a major. If that’s true next week at the PGA Championship, then Tiger Woods is already dialed in.

Woods played safe and smart with a big lead, parring 16 holes in an even-par 70 Sunday to coast to a seven-shot victory at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational for his eighth win at the event — matching the PGA Tour record he shares for victories in a single tournament.

As he walked to the scorer’s trailer to finalize his score, he scooped up young son Charlie.

After a second-round 61 in which he flirted with 59, Woods ended up at 15-under 265 to easily beat defending champ Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson.

Woods’ mastery at Firestone Country Club allowed him to again match Sam Snead’s PGA Tour record for wins in an event. Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times. Earlier this year, Woods won the ARnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard for the eighth time.

The two-time FedExCup champion increases his lead in the standings to about 800 points, making him the favorite to win his third FedExCup later this season.

As if he weren’t already the favorite next week in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, the lopsided victory reinforced it.

No one ever got within six shots all day of the world’s No. 1.

When he had a good shot at a pin, he took it. Otherwise, he took few, if any, risks.

He had birdied the short, par-4 first hole each of the first three days, and had played the second in 3 under as well. But he came up just short on the opening hole and chipped up for an easy par. At the second, he found a fairway bunker off the tee, blasted out and hit his approach to 10 feet but his birdie putt skidded off the edge. Tap-in par.

That’s pretty much the way it went the first nine holes, until Woods stuffed his second shot at the par-4 10th inside 8 feet and then poured in the birdie putt to break up a string of pars.

That briefly pushed the lead to eight shots. It never fell below seven as the field had difficulty putting up many birdies as Firestone dried out, the greens got faster and the old course bared its fangs.

A three-putt at the 14th hole brought Woods’ lone bogey, but by then most of the field was thinking about catching flights to Rochester instead of catching Woods.

Bradley, who won a year ago when Jim Furyk double-bogeyed the 72nd hole, shot a 67 to get to 8 under along with Stenson, who had a 70 while playing with Woods.

Tied for fourth were Cleveland-born Jason Dufner (71), Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and Zach Johnson (67) at 6 under, with Martin Kaymer, who matched the day’s best round with a 66, at 4 under along with Furyk, Richard Sterne and Luke Donald.

For those betting Woods won’t win next week at Oak Hill, keep in mind that he has already won both the Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in the same year three times in his career (2000, 2006, 2007).

Still, the odds do not favor him coming right back with another win. In the 19 times in which he has won his last start before a major, he’s only followed up with a win four times: 2000 U.S. Open (after winning the Memorial), 2001 Masters Tournament (THE PLAYERS), 2006 PGA (Buick) and 2007 PGA (Bridgestone).

The victory was Woods’ 79th, drawing him within three of Snead’s record 82 triumphs.

Lest anyone think he’ll have difficulty surpassing Snead’s total, consider that Woods is more than 10 years younger (he’s 37) than Snead was when he won his 82nd and final event, the 1965 Greater Greensboro.

Even though he’s a California native, Woods has found a second home in Ohio where he’s collected 13 victories — also including five at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.

Woods won the Bridgestone, and it’s forerunner the NEC Invitational, about every way imaginable: overcoming a crazy shot that went onto the clubhouse roof, putting out in almost total darkness, running away early, outdueling a foe down the stretch.

Woods, who has five wins this year to have at least that many in a year for the 10th time, also has won 18 World Golf Championship series events in just 42 starts.

Really, he won the tournament in the rain on Friday.

The 61 he had in the second round — he needed to go just 2 under over the final five holes to shoot a magical 59 — matched his career best, mustered three previous times including once before at Firestone.

In the two previous times he won the Bridgestone and then played in the PGA Championship, he finished first at Southern Hills in 2007 and then placed second — blowing a final-round lead to Y.E. Yang — in 2009 at Hazeltine.

He’s far from a lock next week, however.

Woods has not won in his last 17 starts in a major, calling into question his shot at surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 victories in majors. Woods has 14 — and all eyes will be on him as he heads to Pittsford, N.Y.

Leaderboard: Tiger Woods 66-61-68-70–265 (-15); Henrik Stenson 65-70-67-67–272 (-8); Keegan Bradley 66-68-71-67–272 (-8); Zach Johnson 69-70-68-67–274 (-6); Miguel Angel Jimenez 71-69-65-69–274 (-6); Jason Dufner  67-69-67-71–274 (-6)

Top 5 FedExCup Standings
No.       Player                             Points     Wins       Top-10           Behind    Starts
1          Tiger Woods                        3,031       5             7                   —–          11
2          Matt Kuchar                        2,245       2             7                   786          18
3          Brandt Snedeker                2,214       2             8                   817          17
4          Phil Mickelson                   2,165       2             6                   866          16
5          Billy Horschel                                  1,487       1                   7             1,544          21
— With his T4 finish, Zach Johnson moved from 12th to 10th in the Presients Cup standings, bumping Dustin Johnson.
The top 10 through Deutsche Bank Championship are automatic selections for 2013 U.S. Presidents Cup team.
United States Presidents Cup standings                                                                         
No.       Player                             Points                Bridgestone finish               PCup position last week
1          Tiger Woods                    21,481,771                    1                                                 1
2          Brandt Snedeker              14,967,427                 T33                                              2
3          Phil Mickelson                  14,314,974                 T21                                              3
4          Matt Kuchar                     13,961,215                 T27                                              4
5          Keegan Bradley                10,207,950                 T2                                                7
6          Bill Haas                          10,004,542                 T7                                                5
7          Hunter Mahan                 9,562,588                   DNP                                            6
8          Webb Simpson                8,522,936                   T14                                              8
9          Steve Stricker                  8,437,513                     13                                                9
10         Zach Johnson                  8,279,362                   T4                                                12
11         Dustin Johnson                8,269,408                   T33                                              10
12         Bubba Watson                 7,816,908                   T27                                              11
— Luke Donald (T9) notched his fifth top-10 finish in his ninth start at the Bridgestone Invitational and climbed from No. 61 to No. 50 in the FedExCup standings. Donald has finished inside the top 30 in the FedExCup the last four years (2009-12).
— Henrik Stenson, the runner-up at The Open Championship two weeks ago in his last start, finished T2 to move to 12th in the FedExCup standings. In his last Bridgestone Invitational start in 2010, Stenson finished 80th.
— Bill Haas (T7) now leads the PGA Tour in top-10 finishes with a career-best nine, his previous best being seven in 2011. Haas, the 2011 FedExCup champion, won the AT&T National in late June and sits sixth in the FedExCup standings.
— Past champions in the field: Tiger Woods (1), Keegan Bradley (T2), Adam Scott (T14).
— Jason Dufner (T4) posted his second consecutive top-10 finish at the Bridgestone Invitational, having finished seventh in his debut in 2012.
— Chris Wood (T7) was the lone first-time Bridgestone Invitational participant to finish in the top 10 this week.
— Brandt Snedeker led the field in eagles with two this week.
— Additional Tiger Woods notes:
Tiger Woods largest 54-hole leads
Tournament                                          Place                                                 Round 3 Finish
2000 U.S. Open                                          10 over Els                                          -8            W (67)
2000 WGC-NEC Invitational                  9 over Mickelson, P. Price, Sutton      -18           W (67)
1997 Masters Tournament                      9 over Rocca                                       -15           W (69)
2008 Buick Invitational                           8 over Cink                                        -19           W (71)
2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational      7 over Stenson                 -15           W (70)
2009 BMW Championship                      7 over Snedeker, Leishman            -16           W (68)
2006 WGC-AmEx Championship            6 over Scott                                       -19           W (67 )
2003 100th Western Open                      6 over Allenby, Kresge                       -18           W (69)
2000 Open Championship                      6 over Bjorn, Duval                             -16           W (69)
2000 Memorial Tournament                    6 over Lowery                                    -17           W (70)
2002 WGC-AmEx Championship            5 over six players                               -19           W (66)
1999 WGC-NEC Invitational                    5 over Couples, N. Price                     -11           W (71)
— Woods is the last player to win a PGA Tour event (2007 Bridgestone Invitational) and win a major championship the following week (2007 PGA Championship). Phil Mickelson won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on the European Tour before winning The Open Championship two weeks ago.
Tiger Woods victories in final start before a major (20 with four victories)
1997     Western Open (1), The Open (T24)
1999     Memorial (1), U.S. Open (T3)
            Western Open (1), the Open Championship (T7)
2000     Memorial (1), U.S. Open (1)
2001     THE PLAYERS (1), The Masters (1)
            Memorial (1), U.S. Open (T12)
2002     U.S. Open (1), The Open (T28)
            * Buick Open (1), PGA Championship (2)
2003     Western Open (1), The Open (T4)
2006     Buick Open (1), PGA Championship (1)
2007     WGC-CA Championship (1),The Masters (T2)
            * WGC-Bridgestone (1), PGA Championship (1)
2009     Arnold Palmer Invitational (1), The Masters (T6)
            Memorial (1), U.S. Open (T6)
            AT&T National (1), The Open (MC)
            * WGC-Bridgestone (1), PGA Championship (2)
2012     Arnold Palmer Invitational (1), The Masters (T40)
            Memorial (1), U.S. Open (T21)
2013     Arnold Palmer Invitational (1), The Masters (T4)
            * WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (1), PGA Championship (TBD)
* week prior
— Woods:
  • held a 7-stroke lead heading into the final round, the largest 54-hole lead on TOUR since Rory McIlroy led the 2011 U.S. Open by eight strokes.
  • Prior to this week, the largest 54-hole lead on Tour in 2013 was six by Phil Mickelson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
  • The largest 54-hole lead in Bridgestone Invitational history is nine held by Woods over Phil Mickelson in 2000. He won by 11 over Justin Leonard and Phillip Price after a final-round 67.

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