Tiger Woods mopped up his 69th PGA Tour victory today as he won the Buick Open for a third time in Michigan.
The world number one turned a one-shot 54-hole lead into a three-stroke victory over Roland Thatcher, John Senden and Greg Chalmers at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc to land his fourth title of the year and bounce back from a missed cut in The Open Championship at Turnberry last month.
Woods, who moved to within four PGA Tour victories of Jack Nicklaus’s 73 and 13 of all-time wins leader Sam Snead, had trailed the first-round lead by eight shots only to charge back into contention with an eight-under 63 around the 7,127-yard par-72 course on Friday.
A third-round 65 gave moved him to the top of the leaderboard at 17 under par, one shot clear of fellow American Michael Letzig, with Australia’s John Senden at 15 under. Yet Woods needed just a relatively modest, bogey-free closing three-under par 69 to seal victory at 20 under par as a viable challenge to his lead never materialised.
Both Letzig, his playing partner, and Senden, fell away on the front nine as Woods made the turn with a two-shot cushion over the field at 19 under, Letzig’s double bogey at the par-three eighth leaving him four shots back.
The 14-time major winner’s nearest rival was American Thatcher, already in the clubhouse after an early 64 moved him to 17 under, while Senden and fellow Australian Chalmers closed on the same mark with a 70 and 68 respectively for a three-way tie for second place.
Korea’s Y E Yang claimed fifth place at 15 under following a closing 67 while Letzig, whose double bogey at the last yesterday had handed Woods the 54-hole lead, bogeyed the 18th today for a 73 to fall into a tie for sixth with Ben Crane (69).
Lone European Greg Owen finished his weekend with a level-par 72, the Englishman closing at nine under par in a tie for 37th.
American Matt Bettencourt had a day to forget, though. He had started the day in a tie for fourth but opened with a 10 at the par-five first, then bogeyed the par-four second.
A couple of birdies on the back nine raised the spirits but were followed with a bogey, birdie, bogey, bogey finish for a 78 to finish at eight under.