Andrew Holleran / Lantern photographer
Jack Nicklaus, the all-time leader in men’s golf major championship victories with 18, founded the Memorial Tournament in 1976. Thirty-six years later, Tiger Woods won Nicklaus’ tournament for the fifth time, and tied Nicklaus in the record books for the second-most all-time on the PGA Tour.
Woods, who previously won the tournament in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2009, finished the tournament with a 72-hole score of 279 (9-under-par), two strokes better than Rory Sabbatini and Andres Romero, who tied for second place at 7-under-par. The tournament, which began Thursday and concluded Sunday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, was Woods’ second victory of the season.
The win was also Woods’ 73rd victory of his PGA Tour career, tying him with Nicklaus. On the all-time wins list, Woods trails only Sam Snead, the all-time leader with 82 victories.
Woods said it was “awfully special” to tie Nicklaus on the all-time wins list, with Nicklaus watching him on the 18th hole.
“It’s special for me to do it here, to do it with Jack here,” Woods said. “It just makes it that much more special.”
After cracking a joke, Nicklaus also praised Woods’ achievement.
“Well, he had to rub it in my face right here, didn’t he?” Nicklaus said. “No, if he’s going to do it, which he was obviously going to, I’d like to see it happen here. That was good. That was great.”
Woods hit 14 out of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday, but his winning round could be remembered most for one of the four holes that he did not.
Woods hit an errant tee shot on the 16th hole in the rough behind and to the right of the green. He recovered by converting his second shot, a 49-foot-10-inch chip, for a birdie. That birdie moved Woods into a tie for the lead at 8-under-par with Sabbatini.
Nicklaus gave the shot high praise, while Woods admitted that the shot was challenging.
“Under the circumstances, I’ve never seen a better shot,” Nicklaus said.
Woods finished Sunday’s fourth and final round with a score of 67 (5-under-par), which tied three other golfers for Sunday’s best score.
Woods said his round on Sunday was “fun.”
“I had it all today,” Woods said.
Rickie Fowler, who was paired with Woods on Sunday, said he was impressed with his playing partner’s performance.
“He looked very comfortable and hit a lot of good shots,” Fowler said. “The times where he’s in the moment and in the heat of contention is where he really shines.”
Fowler came into Sunday at 5-under-par, but finished the tournament at 7-over-par to finish in a tie for 52nd place.
Woods came into the round at 4-under-par, four strokes back of the tournament’s 54-hole leader, Spencer Levin. He birdied four of his first seven holes to move within one stroke of the lead behind Levin, who was 9-under-par at the time. Woods dropped back to 6-under-par, however, after bogeying two of his next three holes, and remained at 6-under-par through the 14th hole.
Down the stretch, however, Woods birdied the 15th, 16th and 18th holes. Following Woods’ chip-in, Sabbatini bogeyed the 16th hole to fall to 7-under-par, and Woods held the lead all the way to victory.
Levin finished the tournament at 5-under-par to tie for fourth place.
Woods said that he feels “comfortable” playing at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where the Memorial Tournament is held annually.
“For some reason over the course of my career, I’ve done really well on (Nicklaus’) golf courses, even going back to my amateur days,” Woods said. “I just have a good feeling of how to play the golf course.”
Woods will compete next at the second major championship of the year, the 112th U.S. Open, which will be held June 14-17 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. Woods, a 14-time major champion, is a three-time U.S. Open winner. Woods tied for 18th at the 1998 U.S. Open, the last time the tournament was held at The Olympic Club.
Asked whether he is “back,” and ready to win another major championship, Woods gave a quick response.
“I won,” Woods said with a laugh.