Tiger Fires a 65, Wins in Exciting Finish
by Martin Olivera
Tiger Woods eagled the last hole to tie the tournament record
(266) on his way to winning the Buick Invitational by two shots over Billy
Ray Brown in a final round thriller. It's Tiger's eighth PGA TOUR win, which
earned him $486,000 for a total of $791,120 in fours starts this season. It was
also his first win since May 1998 at the Bell South Classic. The
tournament record had been set by George Burns in 1987, who also shot 65 on
the final round.
There was a Tiger on the loose today at Torrey Pines, and they sent Billy Ray Brown, Kevin Sutherland, Bill Glasson, and Frank Lickliter to try to catch him. But Woods came out roaring, birdieing three of the first four holes -- scoring four consecutive 3's -- to quickly move to -18 and taking a 4-stroke lead over Brown, who started the day with a bogey. "Some of my best rounds started with a bogey", said Brown. "It was a wake-up call. It was punch, counter-punch after that", he added. Woods bogeyed #5, flying a pitching wedge over the green and failing to save par from 6 feet. He then failed to birdie the par-5 #6, but got two shots back when he chipped in on #9 for eagle and a front nine 32. That partial score was not enough to shake off the hunters, though. Brown, who had only 9 putts on his front nine, as well as Glasson -- playing one hole ahead -- and Sutherland, all shot 33 and were still in the race. Lickliter shot 37 to drop out of contention.
Woods birdied the short par-4 #10, and so did Brown. But Tiger was again too agressive on #11 and 3-putted for the second bogey of the day, while Brown parred to get to one stroke off Woods's lead. Glasson and Sutherland bogeyed #12, and they both also failed to birdie the pivotal par-5 #13. The race was over for them too. "It was match-play after #13", said Woods. Billy Ray had to "save" a birdie on #13, pitching on from 20 yards short, to match Tiger's 2-putt from 20 feet for his own 4. "That pitch was big. I needed to keep the pressure on him", said Brown. After matching pars on #14, both players showed their caliber by hitting the green from the woods on the left side on #15. At the long par-3 #16, where Brown hit a 4-iron to just 6 feet from the hole, Woods responded with his 4-iron, only 15 feet short of the hole. Woods's putt lipped out, while Brown converted his to tie Woods at -20. Brown drove in the fairway on #17, while Woods was longer but in the rough on the right side. Brown's approach missed the green on the short side, right, close to the spot from where Glasson had almost chipped in for birdie a few minutes earlier, rattling the flag. Woods approach also missed the green, but on the left side, and had more green to play with for his chip. Woods got it to within 2 feet, and Brown matched Glasson's shot, rattling the flag and making a tap-in par to match Woods's 4. "Thank God for pins", said Brown, "that ball had pace and would have been 8 feet past". The thrilling match came down to the wire, the par-5 18 hole, the easiest hole on the course. Billy Ray had eagled this hole on Thursday, and birdied it on Saturday, whereas Tiger had birdied it in the previous two rounds. Brown's flew over the bunker on the right side, and left him with a good angle to a hole cut just 6 paces from the front edge and 4 paces from the left edge of the green. Woods's drive was a bullet. "It was the best drive I had all day. I hit it flush," said Tiger. He was left with 176 yards to the hole from the left side of the fairway. "A perfect 7-iron", added Woods. Brown's ball came up way short, just right of Devlin's Billabong. "I hit it fat", said Brown. "I was in between clubs and wanted to ease a 3-iron". Tiger's 7-iron soared past over the flag, spinning back and leaving him a 15-footer for eagle. Brown only managed to save par, and Woods made his putt for a spectacular finish.
It was an important win for Tiger Woods, no doubt. He's back in the winners' circle after nine months. "Winning again feels better than any world ranking", said Tiger. Playing in San Diego also had his importance. "It was good to have people close to you", said Woods. "Having Brian (Bell) carrying my bag brought back positive memories", he added. Fluff took the week off, and old schoolmate and former caddie Brian Bell toted the bag for Tiger this week.
Perhaps this week was even more important for Billy Ray Brown. "This gives me a lot of confidence and look forward to playing next week again. I feel like a winner. I beat self-doubt today". After winning the 1992 Byron Nelson Classic, Billy Ray injured his wrist and tried to play through it. "He was trying to maintain his top-30 ranking", said wife Cindy, while waiting for her husband outside the scoring tent. But that didn't work. "After the (wrist) surgery it took him a long time to re-gain his confidence". He won again (1997 Deposit Guaranty), but in 1998 he was unable to make at least 10 cuts, for the first time in his career. And this year he failed to make the cut at Phoenix and the AT&T, the only two tournaments he had entered. "There was a lot of frustration. This year was going to be it," said Cindy, indicating that Billy Ray was considering leaving the TOUR after this season.
"Winning is everything", they say. But sometimes putting up a good fight is just as rewarding, in spite of a defeat. "I enjoyed myself," said Billy Ray enthusiastically. "It was good to hear people chant 'Go Billy Ray'", he added. "We stayed with family here in San Diego, so that made a big difference", added Cindy. So Billy Ray couldn't catch the Tiger today, but perhaps most importantly he found himself.
Tiger Woods will play Riviera (Nissan Open) next, and then the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship at La Costa. It'll make five tournaments in a row for Tiger. So much for the reduced schedule preached earlier this year by Tiger himself. "I enjoy playing here. I have a lot of friends. And next week I'll have a lot of family (watching)", said Tiger.
Woods is a match-play player. He likes it. "I've always preferred to play match play. In stroke play you always look forward to getting head-to-head on Sunday with someone. Match-play is a true test of character", said Woods. "But match-play is in two weeks. I've got to take care of business in L.A. next week first," he added.
He's confident, and comfortable in "Southern Cal". Watch out, the Tiger is still on the loose.
San Diego Golf Pages Home | 1999 Buick Invitational Index