From Brian Keogh in Tucson
Tiger Woods edged a step closer to golfing immortality when he claimed his sixth successive victory and his eighth in nine starts with a record-breaking 8 and 7 win over Stewart Cink in the final of the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship at The Gallery near Tucson last night.
Woods’ 63rd PGA Tour win helped him move past Arnold Palmer to fourth on the all-time victory list with only Ben Hogan (64 wins), Jack Nicklaus (73 wins) and Sam Snead (82 wins) ahead of him now.
“I can’t wait to see Arnie,” said a delighted Woods. “Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan. You have had a pretty good career.”
The world No 1 was never in any trouble in the final and his victory will only have come as a surprise to the inhabitants of Mars as he racked up 51 birdies in 117 holes.
Following his back-to-back wins in the Buick Invitational and the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, Woods has now won his first three events of 2008 and tasted nothing but victory since Phil Mickelson denied him the Deutsche Bank Championship nearly five months ago.
Before that runner-up finish to Mickelson in Boston, Woods won the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and the US PGA Championship. Since Boston he has won six in a row with victories in the BMW Championship at Cog Hill, the Tour Championship and Target World Challenge before this year’s hat-trick.
Cink came into the final on a high following wins over Miguel Angel Jimenez, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Angel Cabrera and Justin Leonard.
But the damning statistic was that he was bidding to end a victory drought dating to the 2004 Bridgestone Invitational - a three and half year period in which Woods has won 29 times. Make that 30 after last night’s thrashing.
Having come back from three down with five to play to beat JB Holmes on the opening day, Woods was always going to be tough to beat and he took control of the final from the start, racing into a 4-up lead by the turn and firing a 66 to Cink’s 71 to maintain that advantage after 18 holes.
He was just as impressive after lunch, winning the second with a birdie to go five up and then escaping with a half in bogey at the par-five fifth before winning the sixth, seventh and eighth with birdies to go eight up with ten to play.
Cink delayed the inevitable by draining a 36-footer for eagle at the 10th, where Woods 35-footer for a half horseshoed around the cup.
But it all ended at the 397-yard 11th, where Woods hit a wedge to two feet to claim his 15th WGC title from 26 starts and a cheque for $1.35 million.
Apart from his Match Play wins at La Costa in 2003 and 2004, the world number one has won the Bridgestone Invitational and the CA Championship six times each.
Woods and Darren Clarke are the only players to have won more than one World Golf Championship with the Dungannon native beating the American 4 and 3 win in the 2000 matchplay final and then taking the 2003 Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
In the consolation match, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson beat Justin Leonard 3 and 2 to earn $575,000 (€388,000) and move up to second place in the Ryder Cup World Points List.
The defending champion raced into a four-hole lead after as many holes, holing a 36-footer for an eagle at the first before taking the second in par and the third and fourth with birdies.