DUBLIN, Ohio (MCT) — Back when he was running a 102-degree fever and blowing gobs of lord-knows-what into a towel between holes, Tiger Woods wasn’t keen on discussing magic from past Memorial Tournaments.
Simply holding his game together until the flu bug passed was enough. “It’s just about controlling my golf ball and staying in the present,” he said.
That mind-set got him to Sunday, when the fever finally broke overnight. Of course, a little magic never hurts, either.
“That was kind of sweet, too,” Woods said of the chip-in at No.16 that turned probable bogey into birdie and propelled him to a fifth Memorial title, two shots in front of Rory Sabbatini and Argentina’s Andres Romero.
Two shots behind Sabbatini with three holes to play, Woods was beside himself after watching his 8-iron fly past its target and stop on the downslope behind the green. But his demeanor changed as his chip inched its way toward the flagstick.
“It just fell in,” Woods said. “I didn’t think it was going to get there at one point. . . . I thought I was going to leave it short somehow, and then it fell in.”
Woods celebrated with an emphatic fist pump, the cheers ringing across Muirfield Village and perhaps all the way to downtown Columbus.
“He obviously loves being in the moment,” said Rickie Fowler, whose pairing with Woods gave him one of the best vantage points. “That’s where he kind of gets down, focuses and hits those shots. It was fun to see.”
It certainly impressed the tournament host.
“It was the most unbelievable, gutsy shot I’ve ever seen,” Jack Nicklaus said from his vantage point in the CBS tower. “Look at the position he was in. If he hits it short, the tournament’s over. If he hits it long, the tournament’s over. He put it in the hole.”
It was the type of shot that seemed to happen with regularity when Woods was piling up win after win. Fans can probably name a half-dozen without thinking: No.16 at Augusta National, No.17 at TPC Sawgrass, the pair that sent him into that 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines.
Muirfield Village might even have it’s own wing for those highlights, including a couple at No.14 that led to victories.
But like the wins, such thunderbolts had become scarce as Woods worked his way back from the scandal that sent both his game and personal life into a sidespin.
Even the victory two months ago at Bay Hill provided only temporary respite. He tied for 40th at the Masters as his driving went erratic again, then missed the cut in Charlotte and was 40th again at The Players Championship.
He took two weeks to work out the flaws, and was happy with his driving even as his body was weakened by the flu bug.
“That was some good stuff out there,” Woods said. “I never really missed a shot today.”
Woods finished the week at 9-under 279, using a closing birdie to put the tournament out of reach of Sabbatini (72) and (67). Third-round leader Spencer Levin stumbled to a 75, finishing another two shots back tied with Daniel Summerhays (69).
—Before the round, Woods learned that agent Mark Steinberg had been arrested by police in suburban New York on charges of driving while intoxicated. “I knew about it,” Woods said when asked for reaction. “And no comment.”