Woods' Cup runneth over

FedEx champ ends tournament 23-under, 8 shots up, $11M richer

Tour Championship

September 17, 2007|By Thomas Bonk

ATLANTA -- Tiger Woods is the only one who could make it happen. Record books and bank accounts would stroll arm in arm down golf's lush green fairways, where victories and their financial rewards pile up in perfect harmony.

They came close enough yesterday. Woods converted East Lake Country Club into his private banking branch, and the setting where he completed a rare and historic double.

Not only did Woods pound the place with a 4-under 66 to win the $7 million Tour Championship in an eight-shot runaway over Mark Calcavecchia and Zach Johnson, but he also won the first FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus that goes with it.

That bonus isn't paid out in cash, but it's deposited into a deferred retirement account that Woods can reach into when he's 45.

His total payday yesterday: $11.26 million.

"You don't look at the prize money; you play and you play to win, period," Woods said. "That's how my dad raised me. You go out there and win. If you win, everything will take care of itself. You take great pride on what you do on the golf course."

Woods' rounds of 64-63-64-66 for a 23-under-par total of 257 was the lowest of his career, and it also matched the third lowest in PGA Tour history.

It's been an exceedingly hot stretch for Woods, even by his own lofty standards.

In his past five tournaments, beginning at the Bridgestone, Woods won four of them, tied for second in the other, shot a total of 75-under and earned $5.65 million. He's made a career-high $10.86 million this year and $76.6 million in 11 full years on the PGA Tour.

His seventh victory in 2007 is his 61st on the PGA Tour, and he needs one more to tie Arnold Palmer for fourth place.

Woods has played 52 tournaments the past three years and won 21. He won seven of 16 this year and eight of 15 last year.

This one wasn't close for very long. Woods started with a three-shot lead over Calcavecchia and dropped a shot when he missed the green at the second and made a bogey. But after Woods saved par by getting a nine-footer to drop into the hole at the third, which he called the key to his round, he started saying goodbye to everyone else.

At the 200-yard, par-3 sixth, Woods knocked it to 3 feet and made the birdie putt. He also birdied the eighth, rolling in a 5-footer to move to 20-under, and then made another birdie at the par-5 ninth, where he hit a 313-yard drive, chipped to 6 feet and made the putt.

Woods hit his second shot through the green, while Sergio Garcia and Zach Johnson were still on it, but he said he never thought he'd hit it that far and apologized to both players later.

Woods birdied the 13th when he made a 10-foot putt and all but ended the tournament early at the 434-yard 14th. After a 322-yard drive, Woods hit it to 3 feet, made the birdie putt, moved to 23-under and held an eight-shot lead.

The only question was who would wind up second. Johnson caught Calcavecchia at 15-under with a 66, when Calcavecchia shot 2-over on the back and finished at 1-over 71. But no one really came close to Woods.

"He never ceases to amaze me," Johnson said. "He's hard to describe."

As it turns out, Woods could have skipped the Tour Championship, just as he did the Barclays, and still won the FedEx Cup. That's because none of his closest pursuers - Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson or Rory Sabbatini - made any kind of move at East Lake.

There have been some changes suggested in the points for next year, and that probably wouldn't be a bad idea, considering the top six players in the standings when they showed up at East Lake remained the top six players in the standings when they left East Lake.

Stricker's 67 made for a nice payday, earning him a $3 million bonus for second place in the FedEx Cup. Stricker won at the Barclays, the first playoff and one that Woods missed. Stricker had top-10 finishes in the first three playoffs, tied for 17th yesterday and made $140,000 more.

Mickelson earned a $2 million bonus for third place in the playoffs, but was 20th at the tournament. He made $134,400.

Stricker said that when Woods took the week off at Barclays, it gave him an opening.

"Too bad he didn't take another one off, really. It gives other players the opportunity. But obviously he knows what's best for him, and it surely didn't hurt his chances. I guess he got away with taking one off and played well in the other three."

As for Stricker, his past two years have propelled him back into golf's elite when he once seemed lost. He began 2006 ranked 337th, but is now fifth.

Thomas Bonk writes for the Los Angeles Times.

NASCAR Nextel Cup

Sylvania 300

At Loudon, N.H. (Lap length: 1.058 miles; start position in parentheses) 1. (1) Clint Bowyer, Chevy, 300, $259,175, 110.475 mph.

2. (18) Jeff Gordon, Chevy, 300, $206,086. 3. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevy, 300, $173,186.

4. (12) Kyle Busch, Chevy, 300, $135,450. 5. (2) Martin Truex Jr., Chevy, 300, $136,195.

6. (4) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 300, $145,886. 7. (30) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 300, $141,191.

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