Woods peaking at the right time with seven-shot triumph at Firestone

August 04, 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AKRON, Ohio -- The historic nature of Tiger Woods' eighth victory in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational will undoubtedly sink in later.

After all, Charlie Woods is only 4 years old.

All he knows is that he saw his daddy win a golf tournament for the first time on Sunday at Firestone Country Club. And that's all that really mattered as Woods walked off the 18th green, scooped his mini-me into his arms and toted Charlie over to the scorer's trailer.

"That was pretty cool," a smiling Woods agreed.

His signature inside the trailer made things official. Woods shot a final-round 70 that gave him a dominating seven-stroke victory over defending champion Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson -- and established the world No. 1 as the man to beat at next week's PGA Championship and the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs.

The win was the 79th of Woods' career, leaving him three shy of Sam Snead's all-time mark, and his 18th World Golf Championships title. No one else has more than three. And for the second time this season, Woods' equalled the record Slammin' Sammy set in Greensboro for wins at a single event.

But that father-son moment was something special, and it restored balance in the Woods household. After all, big sister Sam had been on hand at Torrey Pines in 2008 when Woods won the U.S. Open, and she has the YouTube videos to prove it.

Not only did Charlie make national TV, he posed for pictures with the Gary Player Cup after his dad finished his post-round interview. (And in case you were wondering, yes, Woods does already have seven of those maize-and-blue Wedgewood trophies with 65 assorted others in a room downstairs back home in Florida -- but the 14 majors get their own special display.)

Then Woods strapped Charlie into the car seat in the back of the red Cadillac SUV, slid in behind the wheel and drove away. Next stop, Oak Hill Country Club and Rochester, N.Y. for the PGA Championship where Woods will try to end a victory drought in the majors that stretches back to the last time Sam saw him win.  

"They always say, 'Daddy, when are you going to win the tournament?'" Woods said. "It was a few years there, or a couple years, I hadn't won anything in a while. Last couple years have been a little bit better, and they always want to know what place I'm in. 'Are you leading or not?' That's always a stock question. 'Not leading. Well, are you going to start leading?' 'Well, I'm trying.'

"This week was nice. I was able to get the lead and I held it, and it was awfully special for me to have him here to witness it because he understands it now. He understands when I make birdie, when I make par, and he understands the difference."

Charlie has his own clubs and he enjoys hitting balls around while his daddy practices. When Woods was asked whether Sean Foley was giving his little boy lessons, he joked, "yeah, we're working on the D Plane" but in reality Charlie just plays for fun.

Woods did, too, when he was his son's age. At the same time, though, there was a singular purpose to the youngster even when a 2-year-old Woods was hitting putts against Bob Hope on the "Mike Douglas Show" that helped make him the golfer he is today.

At Firestone this week, Woods turned it up a notch when he fired the fourth 61 of his career on Friday and tied the course record for the second time. He was 9 under through 13 holes and had five more to try to get the two birdies that would have given him the first competitive 59 of his career.

Woods didn't get it but he did turn the Bridgestone Invitational into a runaway, opening a seven-stroke lead that he maintained with a 68 in the third round and that even-par 70 on Sunday. Woods' largest lead in the final round was nine, which came after he made a 7-footer at the 10th hole and Bradley bogeyed the 12th up ahead.

The final number was academic as Woods turned the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational into a victory lap.

"It was a really weird feeling because it was like a tournament within a tournament, I felt like," Bradley said. "Coming in second is a big accomplishment considering Tiger had such a big lead. ...

"It's very tough to give Tiger that many shots. The round he shot on Friday was pretty special. You know, I hate to sit here and go on and on about how good he is, but he is. It's difficult because I really want to get up there and contend with him, but ... this week he's playing really well."

And next week? Well, no one knows what will happen.

But Woods has certainly served notice that his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' 18 major titles is primed -- and the family is waiting.

"Do I want it any more?  No, it's the same," Woods said. "Each and every major, I always want them. I've been successful 14 times, and hopefully next week will be 15."