Tiger Woods charges for victory to draw level with Jack Nicklaus

 

Tiger Woods produced some of the old magic to match Jack Nicklaus' career tally of 73 PGA Tour wins with his fifth victory at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio yesterday.

The final-day surge up the field, the red shirt, the steely-eyed determination to finish the job – and a defining shot, and celebration, as he holed out from off the 16th green for birdie.

Flopping the ball out of a difficult lie onto the near edge of the putting surface, Woods watched the ball roll dead weight into the right edge of the hole.

His fist-pumping roar of delight rolled back the years, and was soon followed by a calm raise of the club after a birdie putt on 18 which he knew had taken him out of reach of the chasing Rory Sabbatini, who finished two shots back.

Starting the day four off the lead, the former world No 1 birdied the second hole after a fine approach to eight feet but it was the fifth where his round sparked into life. With two par-fives in the space of three holes, Woods took full advantage by birdieing both as well as the intervening sixth.

He gave one shot back at the eighth when a 40-foot putt broke too far, and after losing another at 10 it looked as though his charge would not materialise. But he had other ideas, with three birdies in the last four holes including the shot which Nicklaus himself, watching at greenside, said was the best he had seen at the Muirfield Village course.

Woods said: "I knew if I hit it short it would have been down and left, if I hit it long it was in the water. The lie wasn't all that great, I had to take a cut at it and it came out just perfect."

Only Sam Snead, on 82, now remains ahead of him in the all-time table for tour wins. And Woods – 10 years younger than Nicklaus when he recorded his last win – said: "It's been pretty nice and to do it at age 36, it's not too shabby. I've been very proud what I've done so far in my career and I feel I've still got a lot of good years ahead of me."

On yesterday's round as a whole, he said: "Boy, I hit it good today. I never really missed a shot, I had the pace of the greens really nice and made a few putts."

Overnight leader Spencer Levin opened up with an 11-foot putt for birdie and was solid for the remainder of his front nine, but bogeyed the 10th and gradually unravelled on the way home.

Elsewhere, Ryder Cup player Ross Fisher left Celtic Manor in a rage last night after being given a one-shot penalty and a £6,000 fine for slow play when only one off the lead at the Wales Open. "I don't think it's justice, but there you go," said Fisher who, after being told about the punishment with four holes left, fell away to sixth place.

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee won the tournament, a bogey six at the last leaving him one in front of Thomas Bjorn, Richard Sterne, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Joost Luiten.

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