World number one Tiger Woods returned to competitive action on Thursday at the Buick Invitational in San Diego, and just four days later was celebrating another landmark victory. Overcoming a two shot deficit at the start of the final round, Woods stormed to the title on his seasonal debut – winning his third consecutive Buick title (fifth overall) and his seventh consecutive PGA Tour strokeplay title along the way.
His win moves him into second place on the all time list of consecutive tournament winners behind only the legendary Byron Nelson, who died in 2006. Despite his best efforts to play down his streak in the build up to the tournament, Woods found it difficult to mask his delight at extending it after he had sank the winning putt.
“It’s pretty elite company – to be mentioned in the same breath as Mr Nelson is great,” he said.
“When there’s only one person ahead of you and he’s one of the greatest legends in the history of the game it’s pretty satisfying. Winning breeds winning and the more you do it the more you learn to do it in different ways.”
Woods shot a final round of 68 at Torrey Pines to defeat his old amateur rival Charles Howell III by two shots and overnight leader Brandt Snedeker by three. His front nine, which included three birdies and an eagle, put him right into contention and his rivals were unable to catch him in the closing few holes.
Further birdies at the 13th and 17th were enough to see him over the finish line and celebrate the start of 2007 in style. Howell never seemed to recover from making bogey on the 1st hole and despite six birdies he could never get Woods firmly in his sights. He eventually finished on -13, two behind Woods, with Snedeker one shot further back on -12.
England’s Ian Poulter was the highest placed European, finishing in a tie for ninth place at -9. Justin Rose was unable to match last week’s exploits and finished a long way adrift on one under – tied with Phil Mickelson, Woods’ greatest rival over the last couple of years.
Woods has now not lost a PGA sanctioned strokeplay event since he finished second at the Western Open in early July 2006. His streak includes two Major championships (the Open and the USPGA) and two WGC strokeplay events. The end-of-season break and the announcement of his wife’s first pregnancy do not seem to have disrupted his rhythm and he will be the overwhelming favourite to keep his streak alive when he returns to the USPGA Tour for the Nissan Open in Los Angeles on February 15th.
BUICK INVITATIONAL – FINAL SCORES
Torrey Pines, California
-15 T Woods (USA)
-13 C Howell III (USA)
-12 B Snedeker (USA)
-11 B Watson (USA), M Calcavecchia (USA), A Buckle (Aus)