Miracle shot which means that Tiger is the one to fear at US Open

Woods' dramatic victory at Memorial – helped by stunning chip-in at 16th – leaves Nicklaus purring

It is a lone voice that would shout down Tiger Woods now. With the endorsement of Jack Nicklaus, whose 73 PGA Tour wins he equalled at Memorial, and his own belief that he is playing as well as ever, if not better, San Francisco is already looking like a graveyard for the hopes of the US Open field next week.

There is no denying the symbolic quality of the Woods ascent. His two victories this year have come at tournaments hosted by Arnold Palmer and Nicklaus. His next event is the US Open. There is, in the eyes of Woods' devotees, a pattern developing that leads inexorably to his coronation at the aptly named Olympic Club.

And did his eyes twinkle as he received the compliments of Nicklaus and assembled guests during his post-victory obligations. Even the smile and gratitude have returned at the close of media conferences. "Thanks, guys, appreciate it." This is, of course, a time to be gracious. He played beautifully all week and on the final day reprised the best of his youth with a chip-in on the 16th that, just like the miracle shot seven years ago at the Masters, defied the conventions of the game.

Nicklaus might never get over it. "Tiger has been struggling [since 2009]. 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. It doesn't make a difference whether it went in the hole or not. Going in the hole was a bonus. What a shot. I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot."

That is all the oxygen the Woods hyperbole needs. The records show only Sam Snead ahead of him in PGA Tour wins. Woods requires nine more to drawl level on 82. To stand shoulder to shoulder with Nicklaus on 73 was, he said, an honour. "It's special for me to do it here, to do it with Jack here, with his involvement in the tournament and the game. It just makes it that much more special. 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."

Woods defied temperatures of 40C to remain in contention. Three birdies over the closing four holes took him to the top of the podium, two clear of Rory Sabbatini and Andres Romero. He heads to the US Open ranked four in the world. In his head he is ranked even higher.

Nothing wrong with confidence, though it might be wise to counsel caution, given what happened after his win at Bay Hill. Woods nosedived into a tie for 40th at the Masters, missed the cut at Quail Hollow and tied 40th at the Players Championship. As you might expect, he has an answer for that. "At Bay Hill I played well on that Sunday, but I just didn't have the control I did today. That was different. I'm able to hit the ball, I think, compressing it higher than I did at Bay Hill," Woods said.

"I was comfortable hitting it down, uncomfortable hitting it up. As I said at Augusta, I got exposed, wasn't able to get the ball up in the air comfortably, and it showed. I went to work on it for the next few weeks, and I finally got it. It came around here when I needed it."

While Woods repairs to Jupiter this week to hone his game further, the principal figures who would give chase are busy refining their challenges. Rory McIlroy, he of three successive missed cuts, tees up at the St Jude Classic on Thursday hoping to see some action across the weekend. The world No 2's early exit at Memorial afforded a first visit to Olympic Club, where he defends the trophy he won so impressively at Congressional.

The world No 3, Lee Westwood, has chosen to support the European Tour in Sweden, where a Wednesday start at least allows participants to arrive in San Francisco a day early. Westwood's season is built on seasonal peaks. Tied third at the Masters would have been a runaway win had the putts dropped. It was ever thus.

That is not a problem for world No 1 Luke Donald, a winner at Wentworth nine days ago and a top-20 finisher at Memorial after a closing 68. Of Europe's lauded trio at the top of the world rankings it is Donald, working assiduously at home in Florida this week, who remains best placed to prick the Woods bubble in San Francisco.

Tiger v Jack: The stats

Tiger Woods       Jack Nicklaus

73       PGA Tour titles       73

171        Top-10 finishes       286

283       Tournaments played       594

14        Majors       18

* A large gap separates the pair from fellow Americans Ben Hogan (64 Tour wins) and Arnold Palmer (62), who are next on the list.

 

* Both Woods and Nicklaus still lag behind the all-time record held by Sam Snead (82 Tour wins).

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering