Former world number one Tiger Woods sent out an ominous warning to the golf world ahead of the US Open, declaring he feels as good as he has done in years after winning the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
Woods produced some of the old magic to match Jack Nicklaus’ career tally of 73 PGA Tour wins with his fifth victory at the Memorial, his five-under 67 giving him a two-stroke winning margin over Rory Sabbatini and Andres Romero on nine under overall.
Woods looked like his old self as he produced a defining shot, and celebration, at the 16th, holing out from off the green for birdie.
Flopping the ball out of a difficult lie onto the near edge of the putting surface, Woods watched the ball roll dead weight into the right edge of the hole.
His fist-pumping roar of delight rolled back the years, and was soon followed by a calm raise of the club after a birdie putt on 18 which he knew had taken him out of reach of the chasing Sabbatini.
“I hit the ball great today,” Woods said afterwards. “That’s what was so exciting about today is I didn’t really miss a golf shot.
“I hit the ball just as good as I have in years. That was fun when I needed it the most.”
Starting the day four off the lead, the former world number one birdied the second hole after a fine approach to eight feet but it was the fifth where his round sparked into life.
With two par-fives in the space of three holes, Woods took full advantage by birdying both as well as the intervening sixth.
He gave one shot back at the eighth when a 40-foot putt broke too far, and after losing another at 10 it looked as though his charge would not materialise.
But he had other ideas, with three birdies in the last four holes including the shot which Nicklaus himself, watching at greenside, said was the best he had seen at the Muirfield Village course.
And Woods told Sky Sports 1: “I knew if I hit it short it would have been down and left, if I hit it long it was in the water. The lie wasn’t all that great, I had to take a cut at it and it came out just perfect.”
Only Sam Snead, on 82, now remains ahead of him in the all-time table for tour wins.
And Woods – 10 years younger than Nicklaus when he recorded his last win - said: “It’s been pretty nice and to do it at age 36, it’s not too shabby.
“I’ve been very proud what I’ve done so far in my career and I feel I’ve still got a lot of good years ahead of me.”
Romero came from off the pace to share second place with Sabbatini, eagling the long 15th before finishing with a birdie three.
Overnight leader Spencer Levin shared fourth with Daniel Summerhays on five under, the latter carding 69 including three birdies and an eagle in his last five holes.
Justin Rose was eighth at three under and a closing 67 leaving fellow Englishman Greg Owen a further shot back alongside Ryo Ishikawa and Aaron Baddeley. Luke Donald was one under.