Although the eyes of the rugby world have been on Japan, that’s not the only sport that’s been taking place in the Land of the Rising Sun. The golf mad country has just played host to its first annual official PGA Tour tournament, the Zozo Championship.
With the exception of World Number 1 Brooks Koepka (who withdrew due to a knee injury) it was an extremely strong field that set out at the start of the 72 holes. Danny Lee continued his good run of form by finishing in a tie for 10th, but higher up the leaderboard, the rain affected Round 4 turned into a relatively comfortable win for Tiger Woods, who finished on -19, three strokes ahead of the home hope, Hideki Matsuyama.
Woods’ start was far from the best, with his first three holes of the tournament returning bogeys. From there, on a par 70 course, he shot back to back 64’s before closing with a 66 and 67.
Bigger than the tournament win and the cheque for US$1.755m that went with it, was another significant piece of history for Woods. Although his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18 Majors has gathered much attention for many years, today’s victory brought up a different landmark. This, Woods’ 82nd PGA Tour win, brought him level with Sam Snead, an achievement that just a couple of years ago, seemed beyond reach to many. When you consider he started his career up against the likes of Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, dominated in a period that saw David Duval and Phil Mickelson amongst others and now goes toe to toe against Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy in a era that arguably has more strength in depth that any other, the scale of this is quite incredible.
Woods’ win at the Masters earlier this year will understandably live in the memory for a long time, but here are some of the other facts and figures that today has brought about:
His 19th season with at least one win.
The 8th time he has won his first start of the season (yes, we are in season 2019/20 now).
The 7th different country he has won in, on the PGA Tour.
The 1st player since 2003 to win after starting with three consecutive bogeys.
He has won 25 out of 25 tournaments when starting the final round with (at least) a three stroke lead.
‘I trust my hands.’
In a career that has seen Woods suffer numerous injuries and undergo multiple surgeries, he has had to keep finding new ways of looking after his body to achieve his goals. A lighter, more targeted schedule has helped massively. He still looks tired out on the course from time to time, and that has shown in some inconsistency in his performances, but when he clicks, there are fewer better spectacles in sport.
He still has goals. Overtaking Snead is very close and going past Nicklaus’ Major record is still possible. In the press conference after today’s victory, he talked about his desire to come back to Japan next year to compete in the Olympics. To do that, he will need to be in the top four American golfers in the World Rankings come 22nd June, the day after the US Open finishes at Winged Foot. Having won at Augusta this year, it’s important he has a good return to the Masters to defend the ranking points he earned this year, along with strong finishes elsewhere.
On a day where Tiger Woods has written more history, it seems odds on that there are more chapters to be added to his upcoming autobiography ‘Back’; with the release date still unknown, the publishers might just hold it back a while yet.
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