Overnight leader and World No. 21 Tiger Woods pieced together a 1-over-par 34-37=71 in Sunday's final round at East Lake Golf Club for a 72-hole tally of 11-under 269, good for a two-shot victory over runner-up Billy Horschel (66) and his 80th PGA TOUR title in 346 events (332 pro), first since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone 5 years, 1 month (1,876 days) and 42 starts ago, also as the 54-hole leader.
The 42-year-old, a pre-tourney 11/1 outright, completes one of the most improbable comebacks off all-time – in any sport – and heads to his eighth Ryder Cup, first since 2012, on an unbelievable high.
After entering the week ranked 20th in the FedExCup standings, he came up 41 points shy of winning the season-long race, his 2nd-place finish the same resting place as 2013. The Stanford product won five times in 2013 en route to his 11th Player of the Year award but after opening the FEC Playoffs that year with a T2, ended with T65-T11 and T22 (of 30) in his most recent appearance in the season finale before this week.
This memorable postseason saw progressively better finishes of T40, T24, T6 and 1, and a return to the Top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since 2014.
Woods, now No. 13 in OWGR, won’t win POY honors – more than likely that will go to Brooks Koepka, who won two majors this season – but he would be the obvious choice for Comeback Player of the Year. Unfortunately, that award has been defunct since 2010.
An ever-advancing Father Time, a plethora of surgeries, including four on his back, made a return to competitive golf, much less the winner’s circle, difficult to imagine. Add-in a series of high-profile, off-the-course missteps, lowlighted by a mugshot, and it was nearly unthinkable.
Would perhaps the greatest golfer ever, ever win No. 80? The emphatic answer, surrounded by a sea of fans on the 18th hole in Atlanta, was a resounding YES. The only thing missing was a signature, walk-off birdie, settling for a 2-putt par from 6’10”, but the adoration for the 14-time major champ was only slightly muted.
The 83rd Masters is less than seven months away and Woods is currently an 8/1 outright fave. Boom.
Final Leaderboard (pre-tourney odds outright):
1- (-11, 269) Tiger Woods (11/1)
2- (-9, 271) Billy Horschel (20/1)
3- (-7, 273) Dustin Johnson (8/1)
4- (-6, 274) Hideki Matsuyama (18/1)
4- (-6, 274) Webb Simpson (22/1)
4- (-6, 274) Justin Rose (8/1)
Horschel, the 2014 winner and 2014 FedExCup champ, closed with a six-birdie, two-bogey 66, the third-best lap of the day, out of the fourth-to-last twosome. He claims his fifth runner-up in 205 events, second this season in 27 starts (T2, Barbasol), and completed a postseason run of T3-WD-T3-2 for 5th in the FEC standings, up four spots on the week. Making his first appearance at East Lake since 2014, the Floridian notches his third top 7 in three tries, a triumphant return in his own right.
Regular-season FEC champ and former World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (67) came third, four adrift, and ended 4th in the final FEC standings, the same number he checked in on and the same place he finished last season. The solo 3rd was his best result at the playoff finale in nine visits (fifth top 10) and he ends the season as the TOUR-leader in top-10 finishes with 12 in 20 starts and co-led in wins with three, joining Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau.
Rose, a second-round co-leader, began the day T2, three back, and labored to a 3-over 73. His three-way T4 was his sixth top 10 at East Lake in 10 attempts, sixth straight, and fourth top 5. The Englishman wraps the season with a career-best 11 top 10s in 18 events and capped the postseason with three consecutive top 4s. His 2-putt birdie (from 29’9”) on the 72nd hole was just enough to hoist the FEC trophy for the first time and becomes just the second World No. 1 to win it all, joining Woods (x2). Oddly, enough, it wasn’t enough to retain his perch atop the world rankings however, dipping to No. 2, 0.061 average points behind new No. 1 Dustin Johnson. The $10-million FEC bonus will soften the blow, particularly after coughing up the 54-hole lead at the BMW.
After kicking off with 65-68-65, Woods led or co-led after every round with the 65s day and week-tying lows. He improves to 55-for-59 as the 54-hole leader/co-leader, converting his last eight in a row. Woods’ last blown lead was the 2009 PGA Championship in Minnesota, preceding that with 18 straight conversions. His last blown 54-hole lead prior to Hazeltine was here in 2004, where he shot 72 and finished 2nd.
On nine (of 14) fairways and 11 greens in regulation, Woods carded two birdie-3s at holes 1 (10’3”) and 13 (13’2”), outpaced by three squares at 10, 15 and 16, taking 30 total putts.
He began with a 3-shot lead, went out in blemish-free 1-under, aided by a 10-foot, six-inch par-saver at 4, and still led by three at the break (over Rose, one group ahead).
The Florida resident squared his first bogey at 10, missed birdie at 12 from 8’4”, but got that stroke back at 13. He made things interesting down the stretch with back-to-back squares at 15 and 16, but in the end, did enough to cross the finish line, improving to 24-for-24 when entering the final round with a 3-shot cushion or more.
Woods ends a scintillating season with seven top 10s in 18 events, five of those top 5s, and three podiums (2nd PGA Championship, T2 Valspar). He heads off to Paris with a significant tailwind.
Woods wins the TOUR Championship for a third time in 15 visits, second in five attempts during the FEC era, and second at East Lake (2007). Overall, he bags his fourth Playoffs victory in 22 events, first since the 2009 BMW Championship, also as the 54-hole leader. Woods improves to 4-for-6 in the postseason when leading/co-leading after 54 holes, 3-for-5 at the TOUR Championship.
He entered off a T6 at the BMW two weeks ago where he was a first-round co-leader along with Rory McIlroy. McIlroy, the 2016 winner and FEC champ, was in the final group for a second straight event. He was T2 thru 54 holes at the BMW but dipped to solo 5th with 2-under 68. This week, the Ulsterman was T2 again and played out of the final pairing with Woods, cratering to T7 after 3-over 74. He ends the season at 13th in the FEC standings with seven top 10s in 18 events, and another disappointing 74 out of the final group on Sunday, joining the same score back in April at the Masters.
FEC Standings ENTERING the TOUR Championship:
1. Bryson DeChambeau (finished 19th)
2. Justin Rose (T4)
3. Tony Finau (T15)
4. Dustin Johnson (3rd)
5. Justin Thomas (T7)
Final FEC Standings:
1. Justin Rose (UP one); career high
2. Tiger Woods (UP 18)
3. Bryson DeChambeau (DOWN two); career high
5. Billy Horschel (UP four)
Note: Justin Thomas, attempting to become the first-ever back-to-back FEC champ, dropped two places to 7th. He was the TOUR-leader in top-25 finishes this season with 20 in 23 events. DJ was the only player to finish in the Top 5 in the FEC standings each of the last two seasons and has now finished in the Top 5 three years in a row.
Last season, there were six multiple winners, led by Player of the Year Thomas, who won five times:
Justin Thomas: 5 (one major)
Jordan Spieth: 3 (one major)
This season, there were nine multiple winners:
Bubba Watson: 3
Jason Day: 2
Justin Rose: 2
Francesco Molinari: 2 (one major)
Brooks Koepka: 2 (two majors)
This season: NONE
Spotlights: England’s Tommy Fleetwood, a first-time member though not a rookie, was top debutant (of six) with T11, while Aaron Wise, the only TOUR rookie to qualify (of 25), finished T15. Fleetwood heads off to the Ryder Cup while Wise will be the Rookie of the Year.
Starts: 346 (332 pro)
Cuts Made: 316
Top 25s: 261
Top 10s: 193
Top 3s: 130
Wins by Season (in the FEC era):
*Note: Woods’ best season, win-wise, was 9 in 20 starts in 2000.
For the week, Woods tallied one eagle and 18 birdies versus seven bogeys and one double. He ranked No. 1 in Par-4 Scoring, Scrambling, putts per GIR and the All-Around. Most importantly (perhaps), he was T3 in Driving Accuracy. See his strokes gained stats below and his full stats at the bottom.
Leaders in Strokes Gained Stats:
1. Rory McIlroy (4.141)
2. Aaron Wise (3.747)
3. Billy Horschel (3.509)
4. Jon Rahm (3.367)
5. Francesco Molinari (2.456)
6. Tiger Woods (1.903)
1. Hideki Matsuyama (11.668)
2. Cameron Smith (5.341)
3. Justin Rose (4.822)
4. Patton Kizzire (4.540)
5. Dustin Johnson (4.468)
14. Tiger Woods (1.155)
1. Patrick Reed (3.127)
2. Justin Thomas (2.303)
3. Tommy Fleetwood (2.001)
4. Cameron Smith (1.864)
5. Phil Mickelson (1.648)
9. Tiger Woods (1.285)
1. Jason Day (5.488)
2. Tiger Woods (5.121)
3. Kevin Na (4.679)
4. Webb Simpson (4.104)
5. Brooks Koepka (3.725)
1. Hideki Matsuyama (8.328)
2. Justin Rose (6.568)
3. Rory McIlroy (6.476)
4. Justin Thomas (4.952)
5. Billy Horschel (4.844)
7. Tiger Woods (4.344)
Cuts Made: 16
Top 25s: 12
Top 10s: 7
Top 5s: 5
Season Form: 1-6-24-40-2-31-6-4-MC-23-11-55-32-5-2-12-MC-23
26 (of 47 non-team) winners this season had a top-25 finish the start prior (55.3%):
Woods? Yes: T6 (BMW)
16 (of 47 non-team) winners this season had a top-10 finish the start prior (34.0%)
Woods? Yes: T6 (BMW)
Field Scoring Average:
This was the 12th playing of the TOUR Championship in the FEC era with all 12 contested at East Lake:
Scorecard Yardage: 7,362
Par: 70 (35-35)
Cumulative scoring averages:
Woods: 65-68-65-71 for 9.467 SG: Total
Woods’ Position by Round:
FUN FACT: The last time Woods led/co-led after every round was the 2013 WGC-Cadillac at Doral.
Leader/co-leaders by Round:
R1: Rickie Fowler (finished T7): 0-for-5 as 18-hole leader/co-leader
R1: Tiger Woods (Won): 15-for-30
R2: Justin Rose (finished T4): 3-for-14 as 36-hole leader/co-leader
R2: Tiger Woods (Won): 38-for-50
R3: Tiger Woods (Won): 55-for-59 as 54-hole leader/co-leader
FUN FACT: Dustin Johnson was the TOUR-leader in leads/co-leads after any round this season with 15. DeChambeau, Thomas and Rose were tied second with 8 apiece.
R3: 65: Tiger Woods
R2: (1): Hideki Matsuyama (66)
Odds Favorite(s) Outright:
Dating to the beginning of the 2016-17 season (141 events), the pre-tourney fave/co-fave has won 10 times.
47 (non-team) tournaments
4 pre-tourney fave/co-faves won:
Dustin Johnson: 11/2 (Canadian Open)
Dustin Johnson: 6/1 (St. Jude)
Jon Rahm: 8/1 (CareerBuilder)
Justin Thomas: 15/2 (CJ CUP)
Rory McIlroy: making his first appearance since winning in extra time in 2016, the 29-year-old was the pre-tourney 15/2 fave outright and finished T7, a distant six in arrears. It was his fourth top 10 in five tries and after sitting out The NT to practice, posted T12 (Dell), 5th (BMW) and T7.
Final Top 10 in FEC standings (points):
1. Justin Rose (2,260); UP one
2. Tiger Woods (2,219); UP 18
3. Bryson DeChambeau (2,188); DOWN two
4. Dustin Johnson (2,056)
5. Billy Horschel (1,840); UP four
6. Tony Finau (1,732); DOWN three
7. Justin Thomas (1,610); DOWN two
8. Keegan Bradley (1,253); DOWN two
9. Brooks Koepka (1,093); DOWN two
10. Bubba Watson (918); DOWN two
2017-18 Tournament Winners:
Through 47 non-team events this season:
17 winners were in their 20s
24 were in their 30s
6 were in their 40s (Woods: age 42)
Woods’ Weekly Stats (ranking of 30 players):
Eagles: 1 (T3)
Birdies: 18 (T4)
Bogeys: 7 (T1)
Double Bogeys: 1 (T13)
Par-3 Scoring: 3.06 (T8)
Par-4 Scoring: 3.85 (1st)
Par-5 Scoring: 4.38 (T9)
Driving Distance (all drives): 295.0 yards (23rd)
Driving Accuracy: 36/56 (T3) at 64.29%
GIR: 48/72 (T14) at 66.67%
Proximity to Hole: 34’3” (T15)
Putts per GIR: 1.646 (1st)
Total Putts: 108 (2nd)
Putts by Round: 28-27-23-30
Scrambling: 17/24 (1st) at 70.83%
All Around: 1st