DORAL, Fla. — It’s bad news for his opponents when Tiger Woods can scrape the ball around the Blue Monster at Trump Doral and still cruise to a two-shot victory.
Despite some wayward drives and approach shots, Woods never wavered in the final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on Sunday, shooting a 1-under-par 71 to finish at 19-under 269 for the tournament.
It was the fourth time Woods has won at Doral, his 17th WGC title and his second PGA Tour victory of the year. It also was his 51st tournament victory out of the 55 times that he went into the final round either leading or tied for the lead.
“It feels good, especially to play that well this entire week on a difficult setup,” said Woods, who had 27 birdies for the tournament, one shy of his career best.
Steve Stricker came closest to overtaking Woods, but only on paper. Stricker, who started the day five shots behind Woods, shot a 4-under 68 to finish second at 17-under 271.
“He’s been so solid with 54-hole leads over his career that you just don’t think he’s going to come back. And he didn’t again,” said Stricker, who, after bumping into Woods here Wednesday afternoon, gave him a putting lesson that got Woods back to rolling the ball like he did when he won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.
Stricker was 5 under through 13 holes but could only make pars on his final five holes, two-putting twice and getting up and down the other three times.
“It’s tough, especially around a course like this where trying to make birdies at times is difficult, especially when the course got pretty firm and fast,” Stricker said.
Knowing he was comfortably ahead of Stricker, Woods didn’t have to worry about bogeying the short par-4 16th, where his drive landed in a bunker. He blasted out short, pitched on and two-putted.
On the Blue Monster’s treacherous 475-yard par-4 finishing hole, Woods appeared to play a little too safe.
He drove into the right rough, which took the water on the left side of the hole out of play. After he laid up 112 yards from the pin in the fairway, his approach looked like it might roll into the water by the green, but it stopped short. Woods then chipped to 5 feet and made the bogey putt to secure his 76th career triumph, six behind Sam Snead.
Graeme McDowell, who was paired with Woods on Sunday and started the day four shots behind, shot par 72 to finish five shots back in a tie for third with Phil Mickelson, who shot 71, and Sergio Garcia, who shot 69.
Also in that group was Adam Scott, whose 8-under 64 was the best round of the tournament. The Australian, who started the round tied for 19th, had eight birdies in his first 14 holes and parred in from there.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy shot a bogey-free 65, his best round of the year, to finish in a tie for eighth at 10 under par.
Woods, ranked second in the world, continued his near-flawless putting on the Blue Monster’s fast greens, one-putting nine of his first 13 holes. He finished with 26 putts for the day and 100 for the tournament, the fewest of his career.
His game plan during the final round was to get a few strokes under par, then play according to how those chasing him were doing.
McDowell two-putted for birdie on the par-5 first hole and Woods had to get up and down for a par after what he termed a mistake on his approach shot.
On the second hole, McDowell hit his approach to 7 feet, but Woods was able to quash any momentum McDowell had hoped to build.
“Graeme hits it in there stiff. I need to answer,” said Woods, who sank a 19-foot putt for birdie before McDowell made his birdie. “It was important to make that, and basically continue it.
“I figured Graeme, Stricks or Phil were going to make some type of run at some time. I just couldn’t make a bunch of pars, especially through the first 12 holes.”
Woods hit his tee shot to 4 feet on the 193-yard par-3 4th hole for birdie. When McDowell bogeyed No. 5, his hopes of catching Woods began to slip away. A birdie at No. 10 put Woods at 21 under and he was able to play safe and smart the rest of the way.