There wasn’t a nylon rope in Atlanta capable of holding back the overflow crowds on the 18th hole when Tiger Woods walked toward the green. Security teams threw up their hands in surrender as grown men and women, many holding the hands of their sons and daughters, encircled the green at the East Lake Golf Club to get a closer glimpse at history.
Woods finished the emotional stroll, his lip quivering at time with emotion, and calmly made a par. It set off an amazing roar from the partisan gallery and gave Woods the opportunity to raise his putter aloft in victory for what has seemed like an eternity.
“I could hear it. I just didn’t see much,” Woods said. “I was kind of looking forward and I figured that security would hold them back. When I got down to the golf ball, looked back and I think the left half of the fairway was covered.”
It was a momentous victory for Woods, who shot a 1-over 71 to finish at 11-under 269 and post a two-stroke win. It was his first win since 2013. It was No. 80 for his career and the third time he’s won the TOUR Championship.
“It was pretty emotional when Rory (McIlroy, his playing partner) was tapping out,” Woods said. “I looked around and it was – the tournament was over because I’d already put the bunker shot on the green and I’d won 80. Eighty is a big number. I’ve been sitting on 79 for about five years now and to get 80 is a pretty good feeling.”
Woods also made the finish for FedExCup Playoffs a lot more dramatic. He began the week in 20th place and needed seven things to happen to win the FedExCup. Six of those long-shot scenarios came to pass, but Justin Rose – who only needed to place among the top five to win the FedExCup – was able to birdie the 72nd hole and jump into a tie for fourth place and thwart Woods.
Rose began the TOUR Championship in second place in the FedExCup points standings. He was able to hang on to win the FedExCup despite shooting 73 on the final day and dropping into a tie for fourth. The Englishman was pleased with his perseverance.
“I think this means a lot,” said Rose, ranked No. 1 in the world. “This is season-long. Everyone can have a hot week. I’ve had hot weeks and you win. This comes through consistency for me. This represents the consistency I’ve had this year, the amount of top 10s that I’ve had, the ability that I was able to keep that form going through the playoffs.”
Although Rose missed the playoffs at The Northern Trust, he finished second at the Dell Technologies Championship and lost in a playoff at the BMW Championship.
Billy Horschel, the 2014 Tour Championship winner, closed with a 66 and moved into second place at 9 under. Dustin Johnson shot 67 and climbed up to third at 7 under.
Finishing tied for fourth at 6 under were Rose, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, whose 65 matched Rickie Fowler for the low round of the day, and Webb Simpson, who shot 67.
One of the biggest moves on the final day came from Matsuyama, who shot 65, which tied him with Rickie Fowler for Sunday’s low round.
Matsuyama moved all the way into a tie for fourth, bettering his previous best finish of fifth in 2016. Matsuyama hit 15 fairways and 16 greens in regulation.
“I’m happy with the way I played today, especially considering how poorly I hit it on the range this morning,” Matsuyama said. “I got to the first tee and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hit a fairway all day. I somehow got it in the fairway on No. 1 and really played well all through the round.”
He was especially pleased with the 15-foot birdie he made at No. 14 and the 12-footer that save par at No. 15.
“I missed some putts that were makeable, but the putts I made at 14 and 15 really kept the round going,” Matsuyama said. “I’m very pleased with the way I finished.”
Matsuyama finished the season strong, placing inside the top five in the final three FedExCup Playoff events.
“It’s been a long year,” he said. “I reached some of my goals, but one I didn’t was to win a tournament. I have to go back to work and try to get better and do my best next season to get that win.”