1.) BEST AT THE CONGO: Call it the Icon Slam. He won Arnie’s event. He won Jack’s too. And now, Tiger Woods has won his own tournament.
Most impressively, he won each in contrasting style.
At Bay Hill, he separated himself from the field and coasted. At The Memorial, he pulled off the clutch shots -- and one improbable flop -- when he needed it most. But what Woods did Sunday at Congressional, winning by two shots over Bo Van Pelt on a steamy day outside D.C., resonated differently.
Woods played surgically on his opening nine, and then engaged in a taut back-and-forth with Van Pelt on the closing stretch. On this day, Woods won not with superior shotmaking but with steadiness, an attribute decidedly absent since late 2010. As Van Pelt (in search of his second official PGA Tour title) made sloppy bogeys on 16 and 17, Woods got up-and-down from short of the 17th green, then went driver–fairway–2-putt par on 18 to become the PGA Tour’s first three-time winner this season. His closing 69 left him at 8-under 276.
“What an incredible week,” said Woods, whose 74th PGA Tour victory moved him to second on the all-time list, behind only Sam Snead’s 82.
Said Van Pelt, “I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”
This win -- his third in his past seven starts -- came 10 days after Woods’ disappointing finish at the U.S. Open, where he turned a share of the 36-hole lead into a T-21, another missed opportunity at the events he covets most.
But with the AT&T National back at toughened-up Congressional, Woods, a winner here in ’09, felt right at home. (The AT&T had moved to Aronimink, outside Philadelphia, for two years as Congressional prepared to host the 2011 U.S. Open.) This event seemed decidedly more like an Open than last year’s national championship, what with the firm fairways, record heat and linoleum-quick greens. And the final round produced a few major moments, particularly on the back nine.
There were brave shots, such as Woods’ approach on 12, after his tee shot came to rest near a tree. After impact, the shaft of his 9-iron slammed off the trunk of the tree on his follow-through, but he still found the green, about 30 feet away, and saved par.
There were clutch shots, such as the slippery, 22-foot birdie putt on 15 that kept him in a share of the lead with Van Pelt.
And there were the necessary shots, such as the 6-footer for par he drained on 17 that gave him a one-shot advantage heading to the last, and the 9-iron from 183 on 18 that set up an easy par for the win.
“I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again. I think that was six months ago,” Woods said. “Here we are.”
2.) SO CLOSE: Bo Van Pelt closed with three consecutive bogeys to finish two shots behind Woods on Sunday.
Most detrimental were two seemingly routine iron shots.
On the par-5 16th, he had only a 6-iron for his second shot, but left his approach short of the green, in an awkward spot above the greenside bunker. He flubbed his pitch and made bogey.
“I pretty much hit every shot the way I wanted to that hole,” Van Pelt said. “It just ended up being 6.”
On 17, he had 198 yards left, but caught a flier and sailed his approach way over the green, resulting in another bogey.
Van Pelt, 37, hasn’t won an official PGA Tour event since the now-defunct, opposite-field event in Milwaukee in 2009. (He also won the Malaysia Classic in October.) His 19 top 10s since 2010 -- he’s had six this season -- are the most on Tour during that span.
“I’m obviously disappointed in the final result but happy how I played for pretty much the whole day,” Van Pelt said.
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3.) FORGETTABLE THURSDAY: If not for a malfunctioning cellphone alarm, Adam Scott may have picked up his first win of the season Sunday at Congressional.
On Thursday, he overslept and arrived on the 10th tee with only a few minutes to spare. He played his first 12 holes in 5 over par, but rallied with rounds of 67-70 to begin the final round only five shots off the lead. On his opening nine Sunday, the Aussie rattled off four straight birdies, and five in his first eight holes, to go out in 31 and move into a share of the lead.
But he made momentum-sapping bogeys after poor drives on 14 and 15, and his final-round 67 left him three shots behind, in solo third, his best finish of the season.
“On this course, to come from far behind the lead, you’re going to have to play almost flawless golf, and I wasn’t quite able to do that,” Scott said.
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4.) WHAT HAPPENED? Staked to a 54-hole lead for the first time in his career, Brendon de Jonge didn’t make a birdie until the 16th hole Sunday on his way to a 77 that dropped him all the way to T-11.
Now winless in 137 career starts, the 31-year-old South African went out in 3-over 39, then added three more bogeys to plummet off the board.
Having entered the week 77th in final-round scoring average, at 71.2, he turned in a score that was nearly six shots worse.
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5.) SHORT SHOTS: Tiger Woods became the first player since Jim Furyk (2010) to win three times in a season. He remained at No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking. ... Jason Day, who finished a distant second at the 2011 U.S. Open, bogeyed three of his last four holes to finish T-8. ... Former Naval officer Billy Hurley III, who had earned only $85,072 and made only five of 17 cuts on the PGA Tour this season, recorded his best-ever finish (T-4) on Tour.