Tiger wins Memorial, ties Nicklaus with 73rd title
Dublin, OH (Sports Network) - Tiger Woods' win Sunday at the Memorial could be remembered for a lot of things.
It could be remembered for the strong closing stretch -- three birdies in his final four holes -- that propelled him past Rory Sabbatini and to the victory.
It could be remembered for the significant circumstances. The victory, coming at Jack Nicklaus' event, is the 73rd of Woods' career and ties him with Nicklaus for second on the all-time list.
But, more than likely, it will be remembered for the chip shot.
Sitting at seven-under at the 16th hole and trailing Sabbatini by a stroke, Woods lined up a 50-foot downhill chip shot from a good 15 feet off the green. He bounced the ball off a ridge at the edge of the green, and the ball rolled toward the cup, falling in just before it lost momentum.
"I don't think, under the circumstances, I've seen a better shot," Nicklaus said.
It prompted Woods to unleash a tremendous fist pump, and he was left alone in the lead when Sabbatini bogeyed the same hole. He called it one of the hardest shots he's pulled off.
"I went for it," Woods said. "I pulled it off, and for it to land as soft as it did was kind of a surprise because it was baked out and it was also downhill running away from me. It just fell in. I didn't think it was going to get there at one point."
Woods drained another birdie at the last to head into the clubhouse with a five-under 67 and a two-stroke lead.
He finished his fifth career win at the tournament at nine-under 279, while Sabbatini (72) and Andres Romero (67) shared second at seven-under 281.
Third-round leader Spencer Levin struggled to a three-over 75, blowing another chance at his first PGA Tour victory.
At the Phoenix Open in February, Levin carried a six-stroke advantage into the final round but closed with a 75. His lead Sunday was much smaller, but the story was nearly the same. He tied Daniel Summerhays (69) for fourth place at minus-five.
Back in March, Woods earned his first win since 2009 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, prompting some to wonder if he was back. Sunday, at another golf legend's tournament, he played like his vintage self in earning the win.
He began the day four behind Levin and three behind Sabbatini, but rose up the leaderboard with strong front-nine play.
Woods drained a nine-footer for birdie at the second hole, then ran off three in a row from the fifth. He got up-and-down for birdie at five, rolled in a 20-footer at six and two-putted for birdie at the par-five seventh.
That run put him at minus-eight and one stroke behind Levin, who had birdied his first to get nine-under par.
But Woods, Levin and Sabbatini ran into trouble near the turn.
Woods, who played in the second-to-last group, bogeyed the eighth after finding a bunker. He stumbled to another at 10, which dropped him to six- under.
Sabbatini bogeyed the ninth to join Woods at minus-six, while Levin gave a stroke back at 10 to fall to minus-eight.
At that point Levin was still in control, but he came apart with a bogey at 12 and a double-bogey at 13 to fall out of contention. Levin said he needed to hit better drives on the back nine, but that wasn't his only struggle Sunday.
"I just got to find a way to get a little tougher there on the back nine," Levin said. "That's it. I've just got to find a way to trust myself a little more. The mind starts wandering, and it's easy to do."
Sabbatini appeared to take control with consecutive birdies at 11 and 12, pushing his score to eight-under.
But then Woods two-putted for birdie at 15 and holed the incredible chip shot to join Sabbatini in first place. The South African went through the same stretch shortly thereafter, but crumbled.
"I knew that I was going to have to make birdies, and I knew 15 was going to be a key hole," Sabbatini said. "I hit a good drive and just didn't execute on the second shot, and from there it was just a tough position, had to just try and play for par. So not making birdie there really opened the door for everything to unfold."
After his failure to birdie the par-five 15th, Sabbatini found a greenside bunker at 16 and missed his 11-foot par putt. The bogey dropped him behind Woods, and Sabbatini found a bunker again at 17.
By that point, Woods was making a nine-foot birdie putt at the last to extend his advantage to two strokes. Sabbatini needed an eagle at 18 to match Woods, and his second shot flew over the green to secure Woods' victory.
Afterward, Nicklaus joined Woods at a joint press conference during which they both recognized the significance of the win.
"To do it with Jack here, with his involvement in the tournament and the game, it just makes it that much more special," Woods said. "If I would have won it somewhere else, it would have just been I tied Jack. But it do it here and have him here right next to me right now, that means something to us as players, and it's awfully special for me to be here with him right now."
Nicklaus said he was happy to have Woods win at his own tournament.
"If he's going to do it, which he was obviously going to, I'd like to see it happen here," Nicklaus said.
NOTES: Woods earned $1,116,000 for the victory...Sam Snead is the only player ahead of Nicklaus and Woods on the all-time wins list with 82...World No. 1 Luke Donald shot a 68 and finished alone in 12th at one-under par...Next week, the PGA Tour heads to Memphis for the St. Jude Classic, the last event before the U.S. Open.