It did not come as a surprise that the only person capable of stopping Tiger Woods at The Grove was Mother Nature herself. The elements might have caused a cessation of play in the final round lasting, in total, two hours and 46 minutes, but it merely delayed the World Number One’s inevitable celebrations as he cruised to a comprehensive eight shot victory in the World Golf Championships – American Express Championship.
It was Woods’ fifth victory in the tournament itself and an incredible 12th individual success for the American in the last 22 official WGC events. It also gave him his sixth consecutive victory in a stroke play competition and conclusively silenced any doubts about his form after his loss in the first round of the HSBC World Match Play Championship and his indifferent showing in The Ryder Cup.
In the end, ironically, Woods matched his worst round of the week, a four under par 67 for a 23 under par total of 261. But it was still good enough to disappear out of sight of his nearest pursuers who, at the end of the day, turned out to be England’s Ian Poulter and Adam Scott of Australia who tied second, a distant eight shots adrift on 15 under par 269.
The total did not quite match his lowest total to par in the event, which Woods recorded when he claimed the title at Mount Juliet in Ireland in 2002 with a 25 under par total of 263, but it did equal the largest winning margin on The 2006 European Tour International Schedule, namely the eight shot success of Welshman Bradley Dredge in the Omega European Masters last month.
“It really has been a fun week,” he said. “I hit the ball really well, for all 72 holes to be honest, and it is a lot of fun when you feel like you can control your golf ball that well. I didn’t hole all the putts I gave myself on the weekend but it was pretty good nevertheless.
“Overall I have to say that I’ve had a pretty good year. There are two Major Championship wins in there as well as two WGC wins now. The things I have been working on for the past couple of years have begun to come together and it is nice to see the fruits of your labour coming to fruition.”
Starting the day six shots clear of Scott and seven ahead of fellow Americans Jim Furyk and Brett Quigley, Woods always had to start poorly to give anyone else a fighting chance, but he did exactly the opposite.
Birdies at the second and fifth holes merely confirmed his superiority and when he added a further birdie at the tenth, the issue of who was going to win was no longer in doubt.
What was in doubt however, was whether or not Woods would be presented with the trophy on Sunday night. The tee times had already been brought forward overnight because of the threat of bad weather in the Hertfordshire area and that proved a very good decision with what transpired.
The first disruption of play due to thunder and lightning in the area came at 12.57pm and last for two hours and eight minutes, play eventually resuming at 3.05pm. However, that last for only a little over an hour as the players had to come off again at 4.12pm before getting back to complete their rounds at 4.50pm.
It meant Woods rolled in the winning putt just as the last vestiges of light were starting to disappear for the day, with the prize presentation photographs having to be taken in a flurry of flashbulbs.
Poulter finished with an excellent 66 which moved him up to eighth on the European Tour Order of Merit and the Englishman admitted he had been happy with his last round effort which featured seven birdies in total in the trying conditions.
“I think when he (Tiger) got five or six clear he was going to be hard to beat as, obviously, he was in control of his game,” he said. “So my goal was really to finish second, to try and get some more World Ranking points and hopefully move further up on that list.”
That he did not finish second outright was down to Scott, who pitched and putted superbly at the last hole for a closing birdie four and a 69 to tie the Englishman on 15 under par.
“I haven’t played with him (Tiger) for a long time actually and I was really impressed with the way he played in the wind and tough conditions, he really controlled everything well,” he said.
“I was impressed. He was totally in control and he even extended his lead. He is obviously at a comfort level with his swing right now and that is where I want to get to.”