x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Woods keeps promise to Swiss

Tiger Woods will attempt to land his 15th major at the Open Championship in two weeks time, fresh from victory at the AT&T National Congressional Club on Sunday.

Tiger Woods will attempt to land his 15th major at the Open Championship in two weeks time, fresh from victory at the AT&T National Congressional Club on Sunday. The world No 1, who hosted the weekend's tournament, shot a fine three-under-par 67 on the final day to finish with a 13-under total of 267, overcoming a course record-equalling performance from the in-form Hunter Mahan in the process.

There was just one stroke in it at the end, thanks to Mahan's scintillating final round 62, but Woods' victory was sealed with 20-foot birdie putt on the par-five 16th, followed by solid pars on the remaining two holes. "It was into the left centre of the hole, and at the very end it started going left," he said. "It was like, 'Oh, God, just don't lip out now'. "It went in, and from there I said, 'Okay, now if I can just play the last two holes, fairways and greens.'"

Woods latest victory, his third of the year after Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill tournament and the Jack Nicklaus Memorial, moves him further away of nearest rival Phil Mickelson in the official rankings where he has been top of the table for an incredible 555 weeks. Before he went into his final round at Congressional late on Sunday Woods received news that his friend, the tennis player Roger Federer, had nudged ahead first in the race to a 15th major title.

"Great job, now it's my turn," the American golfer is said to have texted Federer before heading out from the driving range and onto the course. Federer's defeat of a battling Andy Roddick on England's grass saw the Swiss take possession of Pete Sampras' record for number of slams won. Woods, who also attempts his 15th major on British soil, must claim four more before he closes the gap on Nicklaus' 18 majors.

"Pretty impressive, isn't it?" Woods said later about Federer. "One good thing is our player career is a little bit longer than theirs, so I've got one good thing there," Woods said. "But he is the greatest player that's ever played. I've talked to Pete about it, and it's just one of those things where he's so good on any surface. It doesn't matter." The AT&T had been billed as a clash between the old order and the new, with Woods, 33, taking on defending champion, 24-year-old Anthony Kim. But while Kim started well, he couldn't sustain his form under pressure from Woods' relentless consistency.

They began the final day on a tied score, but two birdies, three bogeys and a host of fumbled chances saw him finish third, four strokes off the pace. "I'll be knocking at the door again, it's just a matter of time," said the undaunted Kim. "I've got a lot better and stayed a lot more patient than I used to. It's only a matter of time. "I learned that if you have a birdie putt, you'd better make it, especially on the last day. Tiger obviously wins for a reason. He  makes the putts when he needs to. Unfortunately they didn't drop for me today."

On the other hand, they certainly dropped for Woods. His 16th-hole birdie won him a 68th career title along with a $1 million (Dh3.6m) pay day. He may have triumphed, but once back in the club house Woods confessed to fatigue. "It was a long week, but I got the win," he said. "What Hunter did was pretty impressive. I certainly didn't see that score out there. He went out there and put so much pressure on both Kim and I."

stregoning@thenational.ae