The flop shot Tiger Woods pulled out of his bag on the 70th hole of the Memorial Tournament was reminiscent, though not as dramatic, as the one he made during one of his Masters victories.
But the shot he made on No. 16 at Muirfield Village on Sunday surely will become part of Tiger lore.
The shot Woods called one of the toughest he ever made, highlighted a finishing kick – three birdies in the final four holes – and enabled him to shoot a 5-under 67, turning a two-shot deficit into a two-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini and fast-closing Andres Romero.
Coming off a two-putt birdie on the 15th, Woods hit an 8-iron over the green at the par-3 16th and into an dreadful lie. The ball was buried in deep rough, the pin 50 feet away along a ridge. Woods hit a full flop shot, hoping to give himself a reasonable putt for par.
The ball flopped onto the green and rolled into the right side of the hole. Woods gave one of those arm pumping motions that he uses – seldom lately – on great shots.
It was the shot that will be remembered as the one Tiger used to tie Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament host , for second-place on the all-time PGA Tour win list with 73.
Nicklaus was in the TV booth when Tiger pulled off the magical shot.
“The most unbelievable, gutsy shot I’ve ever seen,” Jack said.
“Under the circumstances, it was either fish or cut bait,” Nicklaus said later. “He had one place to land the ball. He’s playing a shot that if he leaves it short, he’s going to leave himself again a very difficult shot. If he hits it long, he’s going to probably lose the tournament. He lands the ball exactly where it has to land. Going in the hole was a bonus. But what a shot!
“I don’t think under the circumstances I’ve ever seen a better shot.”
Woods, who finished at 9-under 279, won the Memorial for the fifth time. At age 36, he is 10 years younger than Nicklaus when the Golden Bear won his 73rd tournament at the 1986 Masters. Sam Snead holds the PGA Tour record with 82 wins.
Spencer Levin, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, lost the lead to Sabbatini with a two-shot swing on the par-3 12th, then took double bogey on the next hole to fall from contention. He closed with a 75, the same score he shot in the final round at Phoenix when he had a six-shot lead.
That was nothing compared with Rickie Folwer who played in the second-to-last group with Woods to help generate an enormous gallery. Fowler opened with a birdie, and his day fell apart after that. With a double bogey on the last hole, he closed with an 84. The only consolation for Fowler was getting a front-row seat to a comeback remarkable even by Woods’ standards — especially the chip-in on the 16th. Fowler said a good shot would have been anywhere around 10 feet.
“It came out perfect, landed right on the crown of that ridge there, and the rest is history,” Fowler said. “I mean, he loves being in the moment, and that’s where he kind of gets down, focuses and hits those shots. It was fun to see.”
It was the second time this year Woods has won in his final tuneup before a major. He won Bay Hill, but then tied for 40th at the Masters. The U.S. Open at Olympic Club starts on June 14, and Woods would be quite happy to take the game he had Sunday to San Francisco.
“That was some good stuff out there,” Woods said. “I never really missed a shot today.”
*In his second appearance at the Memorial Tournament, Daniel Summerhays carded a 69 in the final round to finish 5-under, T4. The T4 is Summerhays’ career-best finish on the PGA TOUR. He previously finished T5 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic earlier this year. He also finished T7 at this year’s Puerto Rico Open, the only other top 10 of his career on TOUR in 44 career starts.
*Rickie Fowler entered the final round at 5-under alone in third but struggled to an 84 in the final round and finished T52. The 84 is Fowler’s highest score on the PGA TOUR. His previous high score was a 79 in the final round of the Northern Trust Open earlier this year.
*Jonathan Byrd closed with a 71 in the final round to finish T6, his second consecutive top 10 at the Memorial Tournament following a T7 in 2011. He also finished T3 in 2009.
*Reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year and World No. 1 Luke Donald closed with a 68 to finish 12th. Donald finished T6 and T7 at the Memorial Tournament in 2008 and 2011, respectively.
*Winner of the Memorial Tournament in 2010, Justin Rose carded 69 in the final round to finish the tournament at 3-under, alone in 8th. The top 10 is Rose’s fifth of the season, including a victory at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
*In his 21st start at the Memorial Tournament, Fred Couples carded a 71 in the final round to finish at 6-over, T50. Couples, who won the Memorial Tournament in 1998, will captain the United States team in The Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club in 2013.
*In his first start since the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship after recovering from a back injury, Dustin Johnson carded a 75 in the final round to finish 2-over, T19.
*Greg Owen’s T9 is his first top 10 on the PGA TOUR since the 2009 John Deere Classic (T9), a span of 41 starts.
*Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa finished T9 at 2-under par and earned $167,400. A special temporary member on the PGA TOUR, Ishikawa has made $763,631 in 2012 (coupled with World Golf Championships earnings). As a point of reference, in 2011, No. 125 on the money list earned $668,166.
*Defending champion Steve Stricker finished T50 at six-over par.