WGC-Championship: Tiger Woods Winning in Command

Tiger Woods did what he had to do to notch his 76th PGA Tour win in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the TPC Blue Monster in Miami, Florida. He trails only Sam Snead who has 82. And the way he looked today, he should have no difficulty surpassing Snead’s record too.

He came into the 18th hole at 2-under on the day and 20-under for the tournament, but he elected to take a strategic bogey, possible par, when he didn’t get a great lie out of his drive into the rough. A cut shot over water to a short left pin was too big an ask. So he laid up, tried to hit a wedge within striking distance but that didn’t work out for him. 

But even though his winning margin was two shots over Steve Stricker, it wasn’t really that close. He was 3-under until he fatted a fairway bunker shot that never threatened the green and of course made the bogey at 18. But that was all he needed and he looked dominant and confident all day long, primarily because he doesn’t look so mechanical:

But it’s more not playing by position, it’s more by certain feels and what I need to do to create that type of trajectory.

That’s a big change, because obviously I was where I was a few years ago to where I’m at now, it’s a big change.  And especially on the fly out there, to make the adjustments that I need to make, where if I don’t quite hit one just right, I know exactly what to go to to fix it, and that’s always the biggest thing is that I didn’t really understand sometimes.  But understanding now, certainly helps.

He has pretty good control of his game right now:

That’s how I know I can play.  That’s the thing.  To be able to bring it out a couple times so far this year, and then able to close and get the Ws on top of that, that’s nice.

Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good.  I’ve been able to do it a few times throughout my career, which is nice.

But one of the things Tiger will be working on between now and Augusta is learning how to hit if right to left with as much ease as he currently exhibits hitting it left to right. There are two many holes at Augusta — famously, 2, 10 and 13, among others — where you simply can’t hit a cut because you need to get around a corner.

Steve Stricker certainly made an unrelenting effort to catch Tiger and shot 4-under in the process:

You don’t have a lot of — what’s the right word — belief that he’s going to come back to the field I guess.  I’m sure there’s a better word.

But you’ve still got to go out and try to do your best and reel off some birdies and try to get as close as you can, but you’re not giving up by any stretch of the imagination. He’s been so solid with 54‑hole leads over his career that you just don’t think he’s going to come back.  And he didn’t again.

So it’s tough, especially around a course like this where trying to make birdies at times is difficult, especially when the course got pretty firm and fast.

So yeah, it’s tough, but there’s a lot to play for, and World Ranking points and FedExCup points, and money, and so you just want to try to get up there and put a little pressure on him, just knowing that you never know what’s going to happen.

But he had a fun time trying. It helped that he was paired with Phil Mickelson all four rounds and his wife was on the bag:

You know, it was fun, a fun week playing with Phil for four rounds, we had a good time out there.  Having my wife on the bag, that was special for us, and she does it once a year probably, and to get in the mix of things and play with Phil and Bubba, it was a fun week for her and me, as well.

So it was a good week.  It was a lot of fun.

And for him — so far at least — he’s thoroughly enjoying his 11-tournament schedule that gets him home a lot more often and back into tournaments a lot more relaxed:

Yeah, for sure.  I have no — yeah, I just feel like there’s little pressure on me out there, at all.  I’m having really a lot of fun.  I’m enjoying what I’m doing.  I know deep down that I’m only playing 11 times, and that excites me.  But I also get very pumped up and excited to play when I do come out.  I work at it hard still at home but in the back of my mind, it’s just coming out and having fun, trying to play good golf and see what happens.

So yeah, it’s helped me I think.  I’m a little bit more aggressive I feel like, some of the pressure is taken off me for whatever reason.  Yeah, so it’s good, and I’m enjoying my train of thought; it would be nice to have that thinking a few years ago, but I feel like a lot of the pressure has been taken off me for whatever reason, just knowing that I’m only going to play 11 times.

Didn’t really set any goals of trying to make The Presidents Cup team or win a major.  I’m just trying to come out and play golf and have fun doing it, and I still enjoy playing, so maybe that’s taking the pressure off.

And he added that we will see him next in Houston and Augusta.

There were four guys who finished T3: Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell.

Scott’s impressive 8-under 64 was made a little easier by how far down the leaderboard he was when he started. It takes a little pressure off when you know you have no reasonable chance of catching the leaders.

Sergio impressively saved a bogey when he took too aggressive a line into 18 and dunked his ball in the pond. But it was a “good” bogey:

Yeah, after the second shot — it was a good 5.  But yeah, I mean, it’s a tough hole.  You’ve got wind into off the left and there’s not that much room to miss it.  And you know, I want to still try to hit the proper shot.

I don’t want to just blast it in the right bunker and hope for the best.  I’m still trying to hit the right shot and I kind of quit a little bit on it and just right hand took over and unfortunately hit in the water.

But you know, like you said, it was a good week, and I can’t be disappointed with that.

Phil started looking pretty triumphant early in the round with four birdies and a bogey, but then he bogeyed 9 and 11 to get to 1-under and was flat to the finish. He just couldn’t get the putts to fall and was surely disappointed that he goal of catching Tiger didn’t pan out. We won’t know why because he didn’t make it to the media room.

And then there’s the charming Mr. G-Mac who had another “pit bull” start with birdies on 1 and 2…but then he gave them back on 5 and 11. He made another birdie charge on 13 and 17…but doubled 18 to finish even par on the day. And in all honesty, he knows why he came up short on Sunday:

Because Tiger played very well.  I made a couple of birdies out of the gate again today. You know, my putter kind of abandoned me this weekend.

I’ve been putting great for a couple weeks now.  I feel like as these greens go faster and faster, my whole speed got a little tentative trying to drop them in, and that’s not the type of putter I am.  I am kind of hit the back of the hole kind of putter.

You know, Tiger played great, you know, no disrespect to him.  He was going to be tough to catch anyway.  I would have had to be on top of my game 110 percent and I would have really had to putt it extremely well to keep pressure on him.  But that 6 on the last leaves an extremely sour taste in my mouth.

But as is always true of good players, even in defeat, they leave with a ray of sunshine on the future:

But all in all, I’m ecstatic the way I’m playing.  Like I say, the way I drove it this week, my iron play, just everything, really — like I say, the putter let me down the last couple days, but that’s been a part of my game that’s been extremely strong the last couple weeks, so no complaints.

And so the traveling circus moves on to Tampa this week for the Tampa Bay Championship Presented by EverBank.

Another city, another fresh start.

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