AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) — Tiger Woods eased to a seven-shot victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, earning his 79th win on the PGA Tour and sounding an ominous warning to his rivals ahead of next week’s PGA Championship.
Seven strokes ahead overnight, the world number one left an elite field trailing in his wake as he signed off with an even-par 70 at Firestone Country Club to land a record eighth title in the World Golf Championships.
Woods played rock-steady golf on a warm, blustery afternoon at one his favorite venues, barely making a mistake on the way to a 15-under total of 265 for his fifth PGA Tour title this year in only 11 starts.
Keegan Bradley, the defending champion, closed with a 67 to share second place at eight under with Henrik Stenson (70).“It was a really weird feeling because it was like a tournament within a tournament, I felt like,” said Bradley. “Coming in second is a big accomplishment considering Tiger had such a big lead.
“It’s very tough to give Tiger that many shots. The round he shot on Friday was pretty special. You know, I hate to sit here and go on and on about how good he is, but he is.”With his eighth victory at Firestone, Woods equaled the mark he already shares with Sam Snead for most wins at a single PGA Tour event.
It also leaves him just three shy of matching the World Golf Hall of Fame member’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins.
The tournament was effectively over after Woods distanced himself from his rivals with a stunning nine-under-61 on Friday and virtually every spectator at Firestone on Sunday had eyes firmly focused on the world No. 1.
The galleries were lined three-to-four deep on the right side of the fairway before Woods teed off in the final round, fans having welcomed him with shouts of “Go Tiger” and “79”.
After using an iron off the tee at the par-four first to find the left portion of the fairway, he struck his approach just short of the green into the rough from where he chipped five feet past the hole and made the putt to save par.
Wearing his trademark Sunday red shirt, Woods played solidly for the next eight holes, lining up mid-range birdie putts on each green while squandering his only close opportunity from six feet at the second.
Out in even-par 35 to maintain his overnight lead of seven shots, Woods recorded his only birdie of the day at the par-four 10th, sinking a seven-footer to briefly stretch his advantage to nine strokes.
The quality of his iron play was stellar all day and it came as a surprise when he made his only error of the round with a three-putt bogey from long range at the par-four 14th for his lead to be cut to eight.
That lead then shrank to seven when Bradley birdied the par-four 17th but Woods safely parred his last four holes to complete the 18th WGC win of his career in 42 starts.