A tournament that looks like a major now has a winner whose career is defined by them.
Tiger Woods added the Wachovia Championship to his growing collection of trophies yesterday with a 60-foot eagle putt to take the lead, a double bogey that kept it interesting, and by avoiding the kind of calamity that doomed his challengers down the stretch at Quail Hollow, in Charlotte, N.C.
Despite the topsy-turvy finish, the outcome was all too familiar.
Backed by a two-shot lead on the toughest hole on the course, Woods played it safe and made par from 8 feet to close with a 3-under 69 for a two-shot victory over Steve Stricker.
It was Woods' third victory this year, and his ninth on the PGA Tour in his last 12 starts dating to his missed cut in the U.S. Open. He finished at 13-under 275, the lowest score to win the tournament, and earned $1.134 million for the 57th victory of his career. He also went atop the FedEx Cup standings for the first time this season.
"Over the course of my career, I've won a few tournaments here and there, and it's been nice," Woods said. "This one, considering the field and the golf course and the conditions, [I'm] ecstatic to have won here."
Stricker had his best chance to win for the first time since 2001, one shot behind with three holes to play. He hit into the trees and the sand on the 16th on his way to double bogey, recovered with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th, then lost all hope when he went for the flag on the 18th and hit into the creek. He shot 69.
Rory Sabbatini, who said he wanted Woods in the final pairing, didn't make a par until the 10th hole and closed with a 74 to tie for third with Phil Mickelson, who closed with a 70 but was never a factor.
The Wachovia Championship is only 5 years old but already regarded one of the best stops on the PGA Tour with its world-class course and strong field.
Woods struggled with his swing, and he kept swing coach Hank Haney with him all week, which is rare. But he didn't lose his touch for pivotal moments, especially on the par-5 seventh hole. He narrowly went into the water off the tee, then watched a 60-foot putt roll down the ridge and into the cup for eagle and his lead.
Sabbatini made a joke Saturday night to XM Radio about his "David and Goliath" final pairing with Woods, saying it was tough to consider the world's No. 1 player as David. He had a one-shot lead to start the final round, but was four behind at the turn.
In other tournaments:
* At Broken Arrow, Okla., Mi Hyun Kim won a playoff on the first extra hole with Juli Inkster to capture the SemGroup Championship, the South Korean's first LPGA victory of the year.
* At Lakeway, Texas, Scott Hoch fired a final-round 68 to capture his first Champions Tour victory, winning by two shots over D.A. Weibring at the FedEx Kinko's Classic. *