LA JOLLA, Calif. — Only Tiger Woods could so dramatically breeze to victory. Leave it to Woods to make things interesting at Torrey Pines even when the outcome was so under-par inevitable.
Woods won the extended, fogged-over Farmers Insurance Open on Monday by four shots but wavered enough to keep people interested and/or riveted through his tap-in par on the par-five finishing hole.
Woods never lost the lead but did lose control of his driver as he scrambled home, hitting a shot out of a temporary tent area and taking a penalty drop out of an ice plant.
Woods finished with a final-round 72, even par, and played his final five holes in four over. It was his only round in the 70s after rounds of 68-65-69.
It was a good thing for him, in the end, that he was Tiger Woods and everyone else had pretty much conceded him his 75th victory on the PGA Tour. Only Sam Snead, with 82, has won more times.
Woods ended up 14 under overall, at 274, as he headed off into his private-jet sunset.
“I had an eight-shot lead,” Woods said. “I just needed to stay upright.”
Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater shared runner-up honors with totals of 10-under 278, while Jimmy Walker and Nick Watney tied for fourth at 279.
Woods began the day at 17 under with 11 holes left in his final round. He held a six-shot lead over Snedeker and Watney. Neither of them, however, could apply any pressure on Woods during an agonizingly slow-paced day.
Woods’ 11 holes took nearly four hours.
“In the end I just started losing my patience,” Woods said. “It was so slow out there.”
Snedeker, the defending champion and first-round co-leader, lost control of the tournament with his three-over 75 in the second round. He played the other three rounds in 13 under, which included matching 69s in the final two rounds.
Snedeker started Monday thinking he still had a chance. His problem was he had only five holes left to make up ground.
“I thought if I could get out and play 14 under that I might have a chance,” Snedeker said. “The conditions are tough. The wind is blowing. It’s cold. The ball is not rolling real far. So I knew this course could yield some bogeys, but that being done, you’ve still got to post it. And I didn’t, so that’s pretty disappointing.”
Snedeker missed several makeable birdie putts that could have pressed Woods. Instead, he sat in the clubhouse at 10 under needing a collapse from Woods that would not materialize.
Woods won the tournament but left without one of his emphatic, fist-pump statements of old.
He drove the ball beautifully all week before a final day in which he found only five fairways.
After parring his first hole Monday, the par-three eighth, he had his first wobble at the par-five ninth. After backing away from the ball when he heard a camera click, Woods badly blocked his tee shot right and muttered “thanks a lot” to the surrounding gallery.
Woods being Woods, he brilliantly carved a three-iron off the hard pan near a temporary tournament tent and saved par.
He extended his lead to eight after making birdie on the par-five 13th, before unexpectedly going south on the South Course.
He bogeyed No. 14 and then took a penalty stroke on the par-four 15th after driving into the ice plant. That led to a double bogey.
He also bogeyed No. 17 but still walked to the 18th hole with a four-shot lead.
Last year, Kyle Stanley blew a three-shot cushion at the 72nd hole and lost the tournament in a playoff to Snedeker.
Woods wasn’t going to blow a four-shot lead. He drove a fairway wood into the rough before hitting a safe layup on his second shot.
Stanley, last year, spun his third shot off the green into the water.
Woods had 121 yards left and used a nine-iron to reduce the spin on the ball. He left his shot well above the hole, away from the water, and two-putted for an easy par.
Woods’ victory moves him one closer to Snead’s PGA record. Woods, who just turned 37, has won a startling 27 percent of his PGA starts (75 out of 280).
He won at Torrey Pines for the seventh time on the PGA Tour, equaling the number of victories he’s scored at Firestone and Bay Hill. Woods also won his 14th and most recent major title, the 2008 U.S. Open, at Torrey Pines, meaning he is now the first PGA player to win eight times on the same course.
Only four players who made the Farmers cut — Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard and Mike Weir — have eight or more PGA wins in their careers.
Woods also won six junior worlds in the San Diego area.
“For some reason I’ve always done well here,” Woods said. “I don’t know. I feel comfortable down here.”
Television sponsors and tour officials get very comfortable whenever Woods wins, and even the competitors get caught up in the buzz. “The crowds are just different when he’s around,” Teater, the co-runner-up, said of Woods. Woods has never lost his cold-blooded lust for victory. “I’m trying to beat everyone in this field, and that hasn’t changed and it won’t change,” he said. “That’s the mentality I have.”
And yet, opposing players welcome him back to the victory circle like a thief to a jewelry store?
“Yeah, it’s great for the game in general,” Teater said of Woods’ success. “Not only us, but everybody that plays it. We all grew up watching him. We all want to give him a run for his money.”
Monday’s win added $1,098,000 to Woods’ bank account.
The victories don’t come as often as they did. Woods: “I’d like to win eight, nine times a year … that’s not a bad thing.”
Even after all these years, in the midst of an almost five-year major drought, Woods has proved he’s still a money player.