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February 22, 2024

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Tiger claims fifth straight PGA title

NORTON, Mass. – What began as a rally quickly turned into a rout for Tiger Woods, who matched the lowest final round of his career yesterday in the Deutsche Bank Championship to win for the fifth straight time on the PGA Tour.

With a splendid array of shots and key putts, Woods crushed Vijay Singh’s spirit on his way to an 8-under 63, turning a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory for his longest winning streak in a season.

The streak began in July with a victory in the British Open, his first since his father died in May. It continued on a sunny afternoon outside Boston with some of his best golf of the year and allowed him to avenge a loss to Singh at this tournament two years ago.

Woods needed only three holes to erase the deficit, including a 6-iron over a marsh and into 10 feet for eagle at No. 2. He pulled ahead with a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 5, and he seized control with a 3-wood from 266 yards, a piercing shot into a gentle breeze that banged into the slope fronting the green and stopped 10 feet away for another eagle.

He played his first seven holes in 6 under par, and Singh never got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

Singh beat him two years ago to end Woods’ five-year reign atop the world ranking. The 43-year-old Fijian closed with a 68, not his best golf but ordinarily enough to win with a three-shot lead in swirling breezes.

But not against Woods, and certainly not when the world’s No. 1 player is on this kind of a roll.

“Tiger played unbelievable,” Singh said. “He made two eagles and just took it away.”

Byron Nelson won 11 straight tournaments in 1945, a streak regarded as one of the most untouchable in sports. Woods won six straight at the end of 1999 and the start of 2000, and Ben Hogan won six in a row in 1948.

“You’ve got to have so many things go right,” Woods said. “In this day and age, with this competition, to win 11 in a row would be almost unheard of. What Byron accomplished, that goes down as one of the great years in the history of our sport. You’ve got to have one bad week somewhere. I guess his bad week was a win.”

Can the record be reached?

“If a lot of guys pull out,” Woods said with a laugh.

Woods now takes a week off before heading to England for the HSBC World Match Play Championship, followed by the Ryder Cup. His next PGA Tour start will be the American Express Championship outside London at the end of September.

He still isn’t even halfway home to Nelson’s hallowed mark, but he surpassed Lord Byron in one category with his 53rd victory, moving into fifth place alone on the career list. Woods, who finished at 16-under 268, won for the seventh time this year. No other player has won more than twice.

Brian Bateman closed with a 66 to finish third at 8-under 276, eight shots behind Woods.

It was a two-man race between Woods and Singh, the duel everyone wanted. The gallery crammed as many as five-deep behind the ropes from tee-to-green, racing across bridges to get to the next hole.

No one expected such a sudden role reversal, however. Singh was coming off a career-best 61, although he struggled to find fairways and greens until he found himself having to chase Woods.

“Vijay played one of the great rounds of golf yesterday,” Woods said. “I figured one of the hardest things to do is follow a great round with another one.”

This time, it was Woods who fired at the flags and never took his foot off the gas until he settled for par on the last hole for a 63.

Woods twice shot 63 in the final round at the Byron Nelson Championship and once at Disney, but this was his lowest final round in a tournament that he won.

It also was his largest comeback in the final round since he overcame a five-shot deficit at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2000, which he won for his sixth straight victory. Woods made up seven shots over his final seven holes.

This rally came early, and it was spectacular.

After missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, Woods hammered his driver over the bunkers, leaving him a 7-iron into the green on the par-5 second hole and making the eagle. He covered the flag with his next shot on the par-3 third, making a 15-foot birdie putt to tie Singh for the lead. And when he rolled in a 25-footer on the fifth, Woods was in the lead.

Justin Rose started the day tied with Woods, and imagine his disgust when he saw the leaderboard.

“I was 4 over through five holes, he was 4 under through five,” Rose said. “Obviously, it was ‘Game Over’ for me.”

Singh didn’t go away that easily.

The crowd was still buzzing over Woods’ second shot into the par-5 seventh when Singh hit a shot every bit as impressive, from 87 yards in a bunker, the ball landing behind the flag and spinning back to 2 feet for a tap-in birdie. There was a chance Singh could escape without losing a shot, until Woods curled in his eagle putt from 10 feet.

“He hits a great shot,” Woods said. “So if I make my putt, I take all his momentum away from him. And I knocked it right in there.”

Woods turned toward his caddie and lightly pumped his fist, although Steve Williams was far from animated. It was a big putt, giving Woods a two-shot margin, making it that much more difficult for Singh to recover.

Another key putt came on the ninth, a 15-footer for par that Woods knocked in to build his lead to three.

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