Tiger rallies to win at Firestone
AKRON, Ohio – First came another signature moment from Tiger Woods, an 8-iron over the water that stopped a foot from the hole. Even more stunning was the meltdown that followed by Padraig Harrington.
A swift and shocking turn of events on Firestone's famous 16th hole took Woods went from one shot behind to a four-shot victory Sunday as he closed with a 5-under 65 to win the Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods became the first player in PGA Tour history to win seven times on the same golf course.
It was his 16th victory in the World Golf Championship series, and the world's No. 1 player now goes to the PGA Championship next week at Hazeltine with two straight victories after missing the cut last month in the British Open.
After nearly four hours in the tough battle that Harrington expected, the Irishman let it slip away.
Woods left himself some 170 yards over the water, and his 8-iron landed near the pin and rolled back a foot away. Harrington hit from the collar of a bunker over the 16th green, but his delicate flop shot from behind the green came out hot and went into the water.
He wound up with a triple bogey and closed with a 3-over 73 to share second place with Robert Allenby, who had a 66.
The par-5 16th is the most famous hole at Firestone, given the nickname "The Monster" years ago by Arnold Palmer.
"I took 6 and 8 the last two days, so I certainly think it was a monster," Harrington said.
Woods, who has won the Bridgestone Invitational seven times in 10 starts and has never finished out of the top five, closed out his remarkable afternoon in style with a 6-foot birdie putt.
It was the 70th victory of his PGA Tour career, three behind Jack Nicklaus in second place. Sam Snead (82) holds the record.
"We locked horns pretty good," Woods said. "I made a couple of mistakes. Paddy was being consistent, grinding it out, doing all the right things. Unfortunately, 16 happened. But it was a great battle all day."
It was every bit of that.
Woods won for only the sixth time in his career when trailing by three shots or more, a deficit that didn't last long.
He hit his approach into the par-5 second hole just over the bunkers to 25 feet to make eagle, and two more birdies was enough for him to take the lead after only five holes. From the right rough on the ninth fairway — a rare miss on the front nine — Woods hit to 7 feet for a birdie that gave him a 30 and a two-shot lead.
Harrington, a three-time major champion with a tough mind, kept grinding away with pars and regained a share of the lead with his first birdie of the day on the 11th. And when Woods made consecutive bogeys, Harrington found himself with a one-shot lead heading for the homestretch.
They took 30 minutes to play the first two holes, were timed throughout the round and put on the clock at the 16th. It didn't help when both of them found trouble off the tee — Woods hooked his tee shot into the left rough and had to lay up well short of the pond; Harrington pushed his tee shot into the trees.
Harrington tried to punch a 5-iron around a fairway bunker, but wound up in the collar on the back slope of the bunker. From there, his third shot sailed over the green.
"I rushed my second shot chipping it out and didn't hit a good shot, and obviously left myself in trouble," Harrington said. "I had an awkward fourth shot. I had to go after it, and probably rushed that a bit, as well. That was the end of that."
Woods could not have imagined while standing in the left rough that he would be three shots ahead on the 17th tee. Harrington made such a mess of the hole that he hit five straight shots without losing his turn.
"Tiger did play particularly well," Harrington said. "I said to him afterward, 'We'll do battle many more times again.'"
Woods won this one, as he often does at Firestone.
Hunter Mahan, who shot 66 and tied for fourth, looked up at the leaderboard early in his round and saw that Woods already had erased a three-shot deficit after four holes.
"That's what he does," Mahan said. "He could play this course left-handed and do well."
A short time later, Camilo Villegas left the clubhouse and passed by the British-based Sky Sports broadcast crew watching on TV. Woods and Harrington were on the 12th hole.
"What are you watching for? You know what's going to happen," Villegas said with a smile.
No one could have imagined the way it turned out, only the guy holding the trophy when it was over.