Australia’s Adam Scott closed with an immaculate five under 65 to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by four shots from Rickie Fowler and Luke Donald on 17 under par at Firestone Country Club.
But as Rory McIlroy gave his US PGA chances a boost with a 67 to grab a share of sixth on 10 under, Scott’s caddie Steve Williams did not miss the opportunity to dig the knife into ex-boss Tiger Woods, who struggled to a share of 37th place after a 70.
“This was the most satisfying win of my career,” said New Zealander Williams of his 145th victory and his first since being sacked by Woods last month after 12 years and 13 major wins together. “A lot has been said this week. I’ve always backed myself and it feels great to back it up. This is the best week of my career so far.”
Woods earned $58,500 for his week’s work but ex-caddie Williams was laughing all the way to the bank with 10 percent of the winner’s cheque - $140,000.
Scott, 31, was one clear of Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and compatriot Jason Day with a round to play but after remaining just one clear after birdies at the second and 10th, he chipped in at the 12th and birdied the 14th from 27 feet to take a stranglehold on the lead
Fowler and Donald both closed with 66’s to set the target at 13 under but Scott, who was three clear playing the 18th, hit brilliant 182-yard six iron to five feet and drained the putt to clinch his 19th career win in wire-to-wire fashion and his return to the world’s top 10.
It was also a hugely positive week for McIlroy who has struggled since his US Open win six weeks ago, finishing 25th in the British Open and 34th in last week’s Irish Open in Killarney.
“It’s been a very productive week,” McIlroy said after firing four birdies and just one bogey. “To shoot four rounds in the 60’s and have a good a weekend is a lot of positives going into next week.
“It would have been nice to give myself a chance to win next week but I just didn’t hole enough putts. But it was a good week and good confidence builder going into next week.”
Declaring himself ready for battle at Atlanta Athletic Club next week, he added: “I am playing well and really happy with the way I am hitting it. I am driving it all lot better than I have the last couple of weeks so I am ready for it.”
Williams later denied that Woods had sacked him face to face, insisting he got the news over the phone before his ex-boss gave him reasons for their split at last month’s AT&T National, which Woods hosts.
The former world number one now faces a race against time to be ready for this week’s US PGA and while he birdied three of his last four holes yesterday, he hit just five fairways in a rollercoaster round.
Dead last in the field for driving accuracy, Woods said: “I had it in spurts this week. I hit it really well and then I’d lose it and get it back. Today was a good example of that.”
Asked if he’d like another event before playing a major, Woods said: “It would be nice, but hey, I’ve got three days, so I’m going to worry about these three days and apply it accordingly and be ready come Thursday.”
McIlroy was apart, it was a disappointing week for the Irish contingent with Padraig Harrington the next best in joint 59th on six over after a closing 72.
The 39-year old Dubliner, who followed two early birdies with five bogeys in the last 12 holes, finished the week tied for 70th in the 76-man field for fairways hit and 70th for greens in regulation.
And while he’s hoping to join forces with top coach Pete Cowen after consulting him on Saturday, he knows he wait until after the US PGA and rely on his timing and his mental strength to help him contend in Atlanta.
“I definitely need to do a bit of work on my pace putting but outside of that some areas were better today,” Harrington said. “It certainly gives me some hope going forward. I was more positive today than yesterday.
“The only way I am going to win the US PGA is with my mental game. That’s where I will be focussing. If you are not in the right place mentally you are not going to handle it coming down the stretch.”
Graeme McDowell closed his disappointing week with a one over 71 that left him in 65th place on nine over and while he insisted that his game is not too far away heading into the final major of the season, he confessed that he has work to do between now and Thursday.
After following two early birdies with bogeys at the 10th, 17th and 18th, the 32-year old Ulsterman said: “I played a bit better today after doing some work on the range with Pete Cowen. The golf swing felt more like it but I just couldn’t score and putted awfully.”
Darren Clarke opened with rounds of 77 and 74 alongside Woods but followed a 69 with a closing 72 to finish tied 68th on 12 over.
Clarke said: “I had a tough start to the week but today was probably the best I have had out of any of the four but I putted so poorly, I just could not read the greens for love nor money.
“I three putted the first from nowhere and three-putted 16 and had six, seven, eight footers for birdies and I couldn’t make a thing.”