Tiger Woods rolled in a 12 foot birdie putt on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off at Valderrama to edge out Spanish favourite Miguel Angel Jiménez in a thrilling climax to the first World Golf Championships event to be held in Europe.
The world No.1 equalled several long-time records as he claimed the American Express Championship after a day of unrelenting drama at Valderrama, when Colin Montgomerie stretched his own remarkable record of Volvo Order of Merit victories to seven in a row.
Woods commented: “I’ve had a great season and it’s nice to end it this way and to get a victory and to beat a great champion like this on a tough, tough day. Miguel played a great round today.
“It was a great way to end the year. And hopefully next year I’ll play the same type of golf and we’ll see about the number of victories. I’ll see if I can continue to improve.”
Woods appeared to have lost his chance when he ran up a triple bogey eight at the 71st hole to see a two shot lead turn into a one stroke deficit. However Jiménez returned the compliment by taking a bogey at the last when a par would have secured the 853,190 (£609,421) first prize.
Instead the contest moved into extra holes where Woods made no mistake to claim the $1,000,000 first prize. In the process he won his eighth title of the year – equalling a 25-year US Tour record -and his fourth in successive events, something which had not been achieved since Ben Hogan in 1953.
For Jiménez it was a gallant effort as he attempted to win for the third time in his native Andalucia this year following his earlier successes in the Turespana Masters – Open Andalucia and the Volvo Masters last week.
The 35-year-old from Malaga produced a magnificent final round performance, matching Woods shot for shot in what developed into a two-horse race, particularly around the turn as Valderrama came alive to the sound of Augusta-style roars.
“I had some bad luck. It is a shame I didn’t win for a second time in a week” said Jiménez. “We all know how this course is. I just tried to keep my rhythm. These last two months have been absolutely fantastic.”
Jiménez started a shot clear of Woods, but the American produced some sublime golf to cover his first 14 holes in seven under par in a blustery, awkward day for low scoring.
The excitement grew to a crescendo as Jiménez holed a huge putt for a birdie at the 10th, only for Woods, seconds later, to chip in at the 11th for an eagle. Those two moments proved a fitting finale to the World Golf Championships, while the 17th and 18th delivered the crucial shots.
Woods could only stare in disbelief as his nine iron third to the long 17th spun back from 12 feet beyond the flag back into the pond guarding the green. From there he took eight and suddenly the local hero from Malaga was improbably in the lead.
Jiménez had played some sensational golf of his own to shoot a 69 to Woods’ 68 for six under par totals of 278. Such was the brilliance of the leading pair that Dudley Hart, in third, was five strokes adrift while Lee Westwood closed with a fighting 73 for a share of fourth place on 284.
In the play-off, the Spaniard was betrayed by a wayward drive, which resulted in a second shot well short of the putting surface. From there he missed the green and failed to chip in, his bogey five leaving Woods with two putts to win. He only need one.
By holing his 12 footer, Woods collected his eighth title in 1999, his second in the World Golf Championships series and secured the Andersen Consulting Medal as leading money winner in the three inaugural events.
While The US PGA champion took his season’s winnings to $6,616,585, Colin Montgomerie finished tied for 20th on 290 after a round of 75 to clinch his seventh Volvo Order of Merit.
The Scot captured the crown with a grand total of 1,822,879 euro (£1,302,056), beating Westwood into second place and Sergio Garcia, in his rookie season, occupying third place at the end of a truly magnificent 1999.
Montgomerie said: “Now that the stressful last few months have finished I can relate to what Tiger has achieved. It’s getting tougher. The standard behind me is improving all the time.
“When I won three in a row it didn’t mean so much. It wasn’t a record. But when you get to six you want seven and when you get to seven you want eight. Of course the stress level goes up accordingly. Hopefully I’ll be less stressed next year but it’s definitely getting harder.”