The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.
It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.
When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.
He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woods _ now perhaps more than ever before. “Any different?’’ Woods asked about his win. “It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know it’s been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasn’t. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.
“To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.’’
The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.
He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. It wasn’t clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated. It didn’t really matter to him. “It just feels awesome, whatever it is,’’ he said. A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on