Tiger Woods left no doubt, allowed no hope Sunday at Trump Doral Golf Resort. The World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship ended as every other previous tournament did that saw Woods carry a four-shot lead into the final round.
The only questions after Woods 19-under-par 269 gave him a two-stroke win over pal and Wednesday putting helper Steve Stricker were about what this portends for The Masters. It was Woods’ fourth career win at Doral, second PGA Tour win this year and fifth in his past 19 PGA events, a victory rate that resembles his dominant eras.
“I feel like my game’s becoming more efficient, and it’s more consistent day in and day out,” Woods said.
“He’s pretty strong. He’s playing at a very high level now week in and week out,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished at 14-under 274, tied for third with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell.
McDowell spent the past two days on the TPC Blue Monster paired with Woods, which means he also spent the past two evenings being asked for his analysis of Woods’ game and comparison to different eras.
“He doesn’t have those off-the-radar balls anymore,” McDowell said. “In ’10, ’11 when I was playing with him, he would hit the odd shot where you would just kind of blink twice and go, ‘really, that’s wide.’ He’s got the ball under control now. He knows exactly what his golf swing is going to produce. His iron play … stunning. Short game, obviously, he putted really well this week. So, he was tough to catch. He was always kind of making me press …”
McDowell started the day in second, four strokes behind Woods. He made up one stroke when he birdied the generous par-5 No. 1 and Woods made only par (Though he dominated the par-5s as he usually does at Doral, he parred No.1, the course’s easiest hole, two of the four rounds).
When McDowell’s approach on the par-4 No. 2 left him seven feet for birdie and Woods had a 19-footer, it looked like the margin might be down to two with almost a whole round remaining.
Then, Woods dropped the 19-footer. McDowell did the same, but there was definitely a feeling of an uprising slapped down.
“Go to the second hole, Graeme hits it in there stiff,” Woods said. “I need to answer. And he got off to a great start [Saturday]. He was 3-under through three. It was important to make that and, basically, continue it.
“I played well on the front nine,” he continued. “I figured either Graeme, Stricks or Phil were going to make some type of run at some time. I just couldn’t make a bunch of pars, especially through the first 12 holes. I needed to be under par at that stage.”
He was 3-under for the day, 21-under for the tournament after 12 holes with a five-shot lead. Woods spent most of the day up by four to six strokes, made the turn up by five on McDowell, Stricker and Mickelson, bogeyed two of the last three holes and still came home two strokes ahead.
The biggest drama most of Sunday concerned whether Woods would challenge the four-round record score at Doral, 264, he set in his thrilling 2005 duel with Mickelson.
When a media member referred to the win as “stress-free,” Woods quipped, “Stress-free? Did you not see 18?”
That’s the closest Woods came to losing the lead. On the tournament’s final hole, the par-4, 467-yard 18th, Woods’ third-shot approach landed in the rough to the water side of the green, took a mini hop and sat right there. Much more movement toward the water would have sent the ball down the hill, into the drink and a playoff would have been a real possibility.
But, no. Woods opened no doors. He just kept them closed and closed out the tournament.