Woods cruises to 7th title of season

ATLANTA, GA -- This new era in golf sure had a familiar ending.

Tiger Woods never paid much attention to the FedEx Cup until it was shining before him on a pedestal on the 18th green Sunday at East Lake. He always figured his name would be the first engraved on the new trophy as long as he kept winning.

And there was never a doubt.

In his final event of another spectacular season, Woods closed with a 4-under 66 to shatter the tournament record and win the Tour Championship by eight shots for his second straight victory in these PGA Tour Playoffs.

The only new twist? It was the first time Woods won two trophies at one tournament.

Along with earning $1.26 million in cash for winning the Tour Championship for his seventh PGA Tour title of the year, Woods was a runaway winner of the FedEx Cup and the $10 million that goes into a retirement account.

"I don't look at what the purse is or the prize money," Woods said. "You play. And when you play, you play to win, period. That's how my dad raised me, is you go out there and win. If you win, everything will take care of itself. You take great pride in what you do on the golf course, and when you're able to win events, that's when you can go home and be very proud of what you've done."

If this was supposed to be golf's version of the Super Bowl, Woods spent most of the final round taking a knee.

The only drama was whether he would break the 72-hole scoring record on the PGA Tour. With a late bogey, Woods had to settle for a 23-under 257, the lowest of his career, breaking the Tour Championship record by six shots.

Masters champion Zach Johnson (68) and Mark Calcavecchia (71) tied for second.

Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson were the only other players with a realistic chance of capturing the FedEx Cup, and their hopes were gone by the weekend. Stricker closed with a 67 and tied for 17th to finish second in the FedEx Cup, worth $3 million in retirement money.

Woods, however, made no secret of which trophy meant more.

"I think winning this week is pretty special," he said. "Winning the FedEx Cup is one thing, but I think as a player, you always want to win the Tour Championship. There's history involved, and the players who have won it ... these are basically the 30 hottest players for this year, and you know you're going to have your hands full coming into this week."

Everyone else must have felt empty when they left. It was eighth time in his career that Woods has won by at least eight shots, and based on his rate of winning, his career seems to have no limits. He ended the year with four victories in his last five starts, and now has won 15 times in his last 31 tour events over the last two years.

"The man is a freak of nature," Johnson said.

The FedEx Cup was created to put some sizzle into the final month of a shorter season, resetting a points system for the final four tournaments. Woods skipped the first one in New York, and he probably could have skipped another one.

"We had some great drama," Woods said of the inaugural FedEx Cup season. "In the end, it was a lot of fun for all of us."

There was no drama at East Lake, not with Woods hitting on all cylinders to wrap up another phenomenal year. Along with seven victories, his adjusted scoring average of 67.79 matches the PGA Tour record he set in 2000.

He has played his last five tournaments in 75-under par, and his victory at East Lake pushed his season earnings to $10,876,052. That's just $29,114 short of the tour record set by Vijay Singh in 2004, when he played 29 times. Woods played 16 events this year.

His primary objective is winning majors, and he already has 13 of those. The World Golf Championships were created in 1999, and he has won 14 of 25. The latest invention is the FedEx Cup, which changed nothing but Woods' bank account.

"It just makes it harder for the rest of us," Johnson said. "Why give him another thing to try to achieve. He's a very driven man. When you add another element to that drive, what are you going to do?"

Woods won for the 61st time in his career, at 31 making him the youngest player to reach that mark. That leaves him one victory shy of Arnold Palmer's 62 career victories.

Woods has never lost any tournament as a pro when leading by more than one shot going into the final round. The only historical hope for anyone Sunday was that Woods twice failed to win with a share of the 54-hole lead, both times at East Lake.

But that hope didn't last long.

Calcavecchia birdied the first hole to get within two shots, and while that was as close as anyone got to him all day, Woods looked shaky at the start. After a bogey on the second hole, Woods' approach to No. 3 went over the green and into a bed of pine straw. He hit a flop shot to 8 feet, and the par putt caught just enough of the edge to drop into the cup.

"That was a big putt," Woods said. "I didn't want to lose two shots back-to-back and give the guys ahead of me all the momentum."

The pivotal shot, if there was one, came on the par-3 sixth hole. The tee was all the way back, a 200-yard carry over the lake, and Woods hit his tee shot to 3 feet for birdie. He slapped hands with caddie Steve Williams walking off the tee, and the rest became a formality with a few peculiar twists.

Johnson, who flirted with a 59 on Saturday to get back in the mix, made three straight birdies and was standing over a 30-foot birdie putt on the ninth that would have pulled him within three shots of the lead. But he was interrupted by the thud of a ball landing on the front of the green -- Woods' second shot out of the left rough from 286 yards away.

Johnson ran his putt 4 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey, and Woods got up-and-down for birdie to stretch his lead to six.

The only drama remaining was how low Woods could go, a record that likely will never be broken at East Lake given the unusual circumstances. The greens were nearly died a few weeks ago from record heat and a drought, and while the tour staff did an admirable job getting them playable for the Tour Championship, they were soft and slow, and the pins were kept away from the barren spots around the edges. It was target practice from the opening shot, reflected it in the record scoring.

And the winner.


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