TIGER WOODS pocketed $10m on Sunday and claimed it was a just reward for an “unbelievable grind” at the end of a six-win year.
Woods was crowned 2009 FedEx Cup champion after finishing second behind Phil Mickelson at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, his consistency over the year being rewarded with the massive bonus.
It was the world number one’s second victory in the three-year history of the FedEx Cup, having missed last year’s play-off series at the end of the PGA Tour season due to reconstructive knee surgery.
Returning to the game in February after an eight-month lay-off, Woods won six times, with his most recent win – by eight shots at Cog Hill in Chicago at the BMW Championship two weeks ago – taking him to the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
Having held onto that lead at East Lake Golf Club at the weekend, Woods said: “It’s been an unbelievable grind. I was criticised at the beginning of the year for not playing enough but I didn’t want to hurt myself at the beginning of the season.
“I was coming back from reconstructive knee surgery. The last thing I wanted to do was stretch out the ligament and have the surgery all for naught.
“I didn’t do that. I got better and more healthy and more explosive as the year went on, and I was able to finish off these events because of how I managed my year. It was a long stretch to play this much golf.”
In the last nine weeks, Woods has won three times and finished second three times in seven events, claiming a tie for 11th in the other, and he admitted the effort had taken a toll.
“There are days when you are a little bit flat, and you still have to get yourself up to play. That’s part of the challenge when you play a lot of events – and I’ve been in contention a lot so that adds to the stress – and you start managing your practice rounds, your practice schedules, how many balls you hit after a round.
“You start managing all that to make sure you have enough energy day in and day out to bring it and shoot the lowest score you possibly can the next day.
“The mental grind certainly is there because you’re there in contention a lot, and that adds to how tired you become, and then you do it week in and week out and week in and week out, and it adds to it.”
Ultimately, Woods said he could take great satisfaction from having learned how to deal with those low moments and still emerge with successful results.
“I’m very proud of that, how I’ve played this year, and definitely towards the end of the season. To be as consistent as I was day in and day out, it’s not easy to do.
“But certainly I’ve had a few things going my way. You make a few putts here and there, you turn tides, I hit the ball really well at pretty much every event, and I really managed my game well.
“That’s something that I’ve gotten so much better at.”
Mickelson, meanwhile, has returned to second place in the world rankings after winning in Atlanta. Woods has now been top of the rankings for the last 225 weeks and for a total of 567 weeks in his career.
Leading positions: 1, T Woods 16.54pts, 2, P Mickelson 8.33, 3, S Stricker 7.87, 4, P Casey 6.28, 5 K Perry 5.91, 6 H Stenson 5.85, 7 P Harrington 5.73, 8 S Garcia 5.63, 9 J Furyk 5.57, 10 G Ogilvy 5.33 24 R McIlroy.
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