World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Championship
A stellar field gathered at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. What became abundantly clear over the first two rounds was that 73 of the event’s 74 participants were competing for second place. The week was a throwback to Tiger Woods’ earlier career, filled with utterly masterful, dominant performances. After seriously challenging a score of 59 on Friday, Woods “settled” for a nine-under par 61 en route to a seven-shot victory over Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson. The win was Tiger’s eighth in the event, tying an all-time record, and his 79th on the PGA Tour in his career. That drew him within three of Sam Snead’s all-time total of 82 wins. There is virtually zero doubt that Woods will surpass Slammin’ Sammy’s win total, perhaps as early as next year, and only a sliver of doubt as to whether Woods will surpass 100 PGA Tour victories by the time his career ends.
Woods’ evisceration of the tree-lined, straightforward Firestone course seemed to augur well for his chances at this year’s PGA, held at tree-lined, straightforward Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course. But, as in many majors since his last triumph at the 2008 U.S. Open, the world’s best player could not quite put all the strongest ingredients together. He finished in a tie for 40th place at four-over par for the tournament, 14 shots behind third first-time 2013 major championship winner Jason Dufner, whose ten-under par 72-hole total was two better than Jim Furyk’s and three better than Henrik Stenson’s.
The Wyndham Championship, held at the classic Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, turned out to be a dramatic conclusion to the regular PGA Tour season and an excellent prelude to the playoffs. Young phenoms Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed duked it out in a playoff that saw Spieth hole a must-make 30-foot par putt on the first playoff hole before Reed pulled off a one-of-a-kind extraction from the woods on the second playoff hole, setting up a seven-foot birdie try that went in and gave the Augusta State alum his first PGA Tour victory and an invite to next year’s Masters. Reed’s is a great story of perseverance, having endured a number of grueling Monday qualifiers in his young PGA Tour career along the way to his breakthrough.
With the 125 FedEx Cup Playoffs participants having been set after the conclusion of the Wyndham Championship, The Barclays kicked off for the second time from Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, a course that drew players’ ire after it hosted the event in 2009. Recent renovations to the course, with its views of the lower Manhattan skyline, have improved the course and there were no major complaints from tour pros this time around. Especially happy was Adam Scott—the recently minted major championship winner with his victory at the 2013 Masters shot 11-under par and outlasted four players by a single shot: Graham DeLaet, Gary Woodland, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods. The latter three had putts to tie Scott on the 72nd hole of regulation, but it wasn’t to be.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs continue Labor Day weekend with the Deutsche Bank Championship from the TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.