Tiger Woods put an emphatic exclamation point on a year in which he had fallen tantalizingly short of victory with a win in the Tour Championship, winning a PGA tournament for the first time since August 2013.
That’s 1,876 days between victories and Woods was mobbed, drawing an excited crowd that followed him from hole to hole and sprinted ahead to No. 18 to bring pandemonium to the final shots. The roars were earsplitting as Woods stepped into the sand trap and sent the shot just a few feet from the hole. His expression changed and he appeared almost relaxed as he watched Rory McIlroy finish his round.
As he tapped in for the win, he raised his hands and grinned, then hugged McIlroy and his caddie, Joe LaCava, as the crowd chanted “U-S-A,” a nod to the Ryder Cup next week and a release for the crowd. It was a scene that Woods admitted he’s never seen before. Woods finished Sunday 11 under for the tournament, a two-stroke lead over second-place finisher Billy Horschel.
“I was having a hard time not crying on that last hole,” he said in an NBC interview. “I said, ‘Hey, I could still hit this thing out of bounds. Let’s just suck it up and hit some shots here.’ ”
With that, he stepped off to hug his girlfriend, Erica Herman, and told her, “I love you.” His children, Sam and Charlie, were not with him in Atlanta.
“I just can’t believe I pulled this off after what. . . .” he said, his voice trailing off in emotion during the trophy ceremony. “It’s been tough. It’s been not so easy the last couple of years.”
As for the scene, he noted that he’d never been part of that before at the 14 sedate majors he has won. “I didn’t want to get run over,” he joked with NBC’s Dan Hicks when asked about the crowd surge. “I can’t run anymore.”
Woods fell short of the big payday, though. While the win at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club gives him the tournament victory, Justin Rose won the FedExCup and the $10 million that comes with it. Woods finished second in the standings.
It was victory that meant everything to Woods, who has been sidelined by a number of back surgeries over the last few years. He turns 43 as 2018 comes to a close and he is well aware that time is running short. Woods admitted that he loved “every bit of it, the fight and the grind and the club conditions.”
The magnitude of Woods’s 80th PGA Tour victory wasn’t lost on the president, who has partnered with Woods in the past.