Besides the $1.26 million check for his 61st win - one victory shy of Arnold Palmer all-time - Woods captured the much-hyped inaugural FedEx Cup with its $10 million deferred payment. That booty, which goes into his retirement account, could more than triple before he is eligible to begin collecting it at 45.
"I don't look at what the purse is or the prize money," Woods said. "When you play, you play to win, period. That's how my dad raised me."
More than the riches, what Woods' recent stretch of four wins and a tie for second in his last five tournaments has done is demonstrate once again the staggering gulf he has put between himself and every other golfer in the world, maybe in history.
At the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Woods skipped the first tournament, the Barclays in Westchester, N.Y., giving his competition a head start.
"The man is a freak of nature," said Masters champion Zach Johnson, who shot 68 yesterday and finished second, along with Mark Calcavecchia, both at 15 under par. "He never ceases to amaze me."
Johnson jokingly lamented that the FedEx Cup only gives Woods another motivation, another goal, as if he needed one. "He's a very driven man," Johnson said. "Why give him another thing to try to achieve? I mean, really."
Of course, this week was about more than the Tour Championship. It was the conclusion of the first FedEx Cup race. When they arrived at East Lake, only four players in the 30-man field had a mathematical chance to overtake Woods, who ranked first in points.
After last night, the top six remained exactly as they were, with Steve Stricker in second ($3 million), Phil Mickelson third ($2 million), Rory Sabbatini fourth ($1.5 million), K.J. Choi fifth ($1 million) and Aaron Baddeley sixth ($800,000).
While there was virtually no suspense about the FedEx Cup going into yesterday's final round, it was possible Woods could have lost the Tour Championship. The prospect of that lasted for about, oh, five seconds, when Calcavecchia birdied the first hole, to get to 17 under and cut Woods' lead to 2 shots. Could he? Would he?
No, he would not.
Woods actually toyed with Calcavecchia, and us, by making bogey on the second hole, where he missed the green and lipped-out a four-footer to save par. The crowd surrounding the green gasped, and Woods stood there, stunned, as if he could not believe it, either. But Calcavecchia could not cut the margin to 1 shot, also bogeying the hole.
Once that window of opportunity slammed shut, Calcavecchia could not pry it open again. Woods increased the margin to 3 shots when he stiffed his tee shot at the par-3 sixth to inside three feet. At the eighth, he stuck his approach from 127 yards to five feet, good for another birdie and a 4-shot lead at 20 under. Calcavecchia birdied the par-5 ninth, but so did Woods to get to 21 under and maintain his comfortable cushion.
After that, Woods coasted home like a kid on a skateboard going downhill. Calcavecchia, out of gas, began a slow semi-fade. Johnson mounted a mini-charge that fizzled. Woods, meanwhile, was unflappable, untouchable, invincible. As usual.
Contact staff writer Joe Logan
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