Tiger Woods tied Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour wins with a three-stroke victory at the inagural ZOZO Championship in Japan
Just over two months after having a fifth knee surgery, Tiger Woods played his way back in to the winner's circle, and the history books, in a big way at the ZOZO Championship - the first PGA Tour event to be held in Japan.
As players completed the remaining few holes of the weather delayed tournament, Woods held off a final-round challenge from home favourite Hideki Matsuyama to claim the 82nd PGA Tour title of his career, tying the all-time record with Sam Snead.
And he did it by rolling in a final hole birdie putt to get to 19-under-par for the week with rounds of 64-64-66-67, beating Matsuyama by three.
"This was big,” Woods said after his win, which marked the eighth time in his career he has won his first event of the new season.
“It’s just crazy. It’s a lot. I’ve been able to be consistent most of my career, and I put myself up there with a chance to win on a number of occasions. There’s plenty of times when I didn’t.
“But today was one of those days I was able to pull it out. It’s been a long week. Five days at the top of the board is a long time. It was definitely stressful.”
Woods began the tournament with his lowest ever opening round to start a PGA Tour season - a six under 64, and he matched that total again in his second round on Saturday after play was cancelled entirely on Friday due to storm and heavy rainfall in the area.
That second 64 gave him a two shot lead over his first round co-leader Gary Woodland, and he extended it further to three srokes following a third round 66 on Sunday. He stayed out in front by that same margin as he went out to complete 11 more holes before play was suspended.
Play resumed on Monday as Woods began the remainder of his final round with his sights set on history, but victory looked to be less of a formality when his lead was instantly cut down to two following a bad tee shot at the 12th.
Woods soon had a chance at regaining that lead but pushed his birdie try right at 13, and not long after it was Mastsuyama who had squandered his own chance to to gain ground from short range but missed the perfect opportunity to get to within one at the par-five 14th.
The 15-time major champion was quickly faced with a similar putt to Matsuyama at the same hole, but made no mistakes from 12 feet to regain a three shot lead.
Up ahead, another birdie from Matsuyama on 16 moved him to within two shots with just two to play, but after finishing with back-to-back pars, the Japanese star was unable to catch him.
Standing on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead, Woods found the middle of the fairway before getting up and down from the greenside bunker for birdie to ensure his third win in his last 14 starts - which includes the 2018 Tour Championship and the 2019 Masters, his 15th major championship.
He later tweeted that it was an hour to share Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour wins, having completed the feat 9 years ahead of Snead. Snead's 82nd win came at the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open when he was 52, while Woods is 43.
"It’s an honor to be tied with Sam Snead for most wins in @PGATOUR history. Thanks Mom and Pop and everyone who helped make this possible. Hideki put up an amazing fight on his home soil, but to do this in Japan is something I’ll never forget. It’s been an awesome year."
Rory McIlroy finished in a tie for third place on 13-under with Sungjae Im, while US Open Champion Gary Woodland continued his quest for the a Presidents Cup pick by finishing a shot further back in fifth.
Next week, Tiger Woods will announce his four wildcard picks for the 2019 Presidents Cup. There has been plenty of speculation about whether he will pick himself, and after his recent result, it's hard to argue against it.
"I think the player definitely got the captain’s attention" he quipped afterwards.