sept18 Woods wins inaugural FedEx Cup


Hoping to spice up the end of the season, the tour came up with a playoff system, a shiny cup and a mammoth chunk of retirement change. But all that did was give Tiger Woods another trophy for his mantle - he must have a gigantic fireplace - and millions more to spend in his golden years, as if he doesn't already have enough to run a small country.

Woods stripped away any drama from the inaugural FedEx Cup, crushing an elite field Sunday to win the Tour Championship. He started the final round with a three-stroke lead and stretched it to a record eight-shot win with a 4-under 66, his worst round of an amazing week at East Lake.

"You throw another thing at him, it just makes it even worse for the rest of us,'' said Masters champion Zach Johnson, who shared the runner-up spot with Mark Calcavecchia but was barely in the same ZIP code as Woods. "Why give him another thing to try to achieve? I mean, really.''

Woods clearly has no problem getting motivated, no matter what challenge is put in front of him.

His primary goal, of course, is taking down Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles. Woods is five away. Then there's the World Golf Championships, which was created in 1999 to bring together the top players more times every year. Woods has won 14 of 25 in that format. This year marked the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs, which reset the points for the final four tournaments, with the winner getting the FedEx Cup and $10 million for a retirement account.

Same result.

Tiger rules.

"He's a very driven man,'' Johnson marveled. "When you add another element to that drive, what do you do?''

Woods said it's not about the money, though he certainly wasn't complaining about the $10 million or the $1.26 million in cash he got for winning the Tour Championship. And it's not about the prizes, though this was the first time he walked away from a tournament with two trophies.

All he wants is to see his name atop the leaderboard.

That was never in doubt Sunday.

"I don't look at what the purse is or the prize money,'' Woods said. "You play. And when you play, you play to win, period. That's how my dad raised me, is you go out there and win. If you win, everything will take care of itself.''

The only suspense was whether he would break the 72-hole scoring record on the PGA Tour. With a late bogey, Woods had to settle for a 23-under 257, the lowest of his career and breaking the Tour Championship record by six shots.

Johnson (68) and Calcavecchia (71) were at 265.

Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson were the only other players with a realistic chance of capturing the FedEx Cup, and their hopes were gone by the weekend. Stricker closed with a 67 and tied for 17th to finish second in the FedEx Cup, worth $3 million in retirement money. Mickelson was third.

"I wish Phil or I could have been up there and challenged Tiger a little more, but he's playing really good,'' Stricker said. "He drove it good for the most part, got it on the greens and he's putting incredibly. I've never seen anybody putt as good as he does.''

It was the eighth time in his career that Woods has won by at least eight shots, and there appears to be nothing he can't do if he sets his mind to it. He ended the year with four victories in his last five starts and has won 15 times in his past 31 tour events over the past two years.

"The man is a freak of nature,'' Johnson said.

Woods didn't even bother playing the first playoff event, and he probably could have skipped another and still won the cup. He was hitting on all cylinders at East Lake to wrap up another phenomenal year. Along with seven victories, his adjusted scoring average of 67.79 matches the PGA Tour record he set in 2000.

He played his last five tournaments at 75 under, and his victory at the Tour Championship pushed his season earnings to $10,867,052. That's just $38,114 short of the tour record set by Vijay Singh in 2004, when he played 29 times. Woods played 16 events this year. Woods has never lost any tournament as a pro when leading by more than one shot going into the final round. The only historical hope for anyone Sunday was that Woods twice failed to win with a share of the 54-hole lead, both times at East Lake.

But that hope didn't last long.

Calcavecchia birdied the first hole to get within two shots, and while that was as close as anyone got to him all day, Woods looked shaky at the start. After a bogey on the second hole, Woods' approach to No. 3 went over the green and into a bed of pine straw. He hit a flop shot to 8 feet, and the par putt caught just enough of the edge to drop into the cup.

"That was a big putt,'' Woods said. "I didn't want to lose two shots back-to-back and give the guys ahead of me all the momentum.''

The pivotal shot, if there was one, came on the par-3 sixth hole. The tee was all the way back, a 200-yard carry over the lake, and Woods hit his tee shot to 3 feet for birdie. He slapped hands with caddie Steve Williams walking off the tee, and the rest became a formality with a few peculiar twists.

Johnson, who flirted with a 59 on Saturday to get back in the mix, made three straight birdies and was standing over a 30-foot birdie putt on the ninth that would have pulled him within three shots of the lead. But he was interrupted by the thud of a ball landing on the front of the green - Woods' second shot out of the left rough from 286 yards away.

"I had absolutely no idea I could even get to the green,'' he said. "I felt bad because those guys (Johnson and Sergio Garcia) were focused on what they were trying to do. It's my responsibility not to interfere.''

Maybe we've finally found Woods' weakness.

If this had been the Etiquette Cup, it would have been a little more interesting.