It’s been five years since Tiger Woods last played four rounds at Firestone Country Club; four years since he last competed. In 2013 he won by seven strokes. In 2014, he was forced to withdraw due to back pain; a simple reminder of both how far he has come, but also how far he still has to go.
As Firestone gets set to play host to the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational for the final time this week, the biggest story line is undoubtedly Tiger Woods. Coming off of a t-6th at the British Open, a t-4th in his start prior to that at the Quicken Loans National, and in total seven finishes already this season in the top-12, this seems like the perfect week for Tiger to breakthrough and get his first win since his romp right here at Firestone in 2013. In 16 starts on this course, Tiger has eight wins.
Tiger’s eight wins at Firestone match a record only twice previously accomplished; by Sam Snead at The Greenbrier (on multiple courses) and Tiger Woods himself at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tiger finished in a tie for fifth at Arnie’s place earlier in the year, and with four more months of strong play under his belt this could just be the week he breaks through.
At 50th in the world golf rankings and 47th in the FedEx Cup standings, Tiger barely managed to get into the field here this week. Doubtful he is able to come in under the radar, though.
Let’s relive his dominance of this course and in this event. Below are my rankings of his eight wins here. Feel free to share your thoughts:
Career win: 79th
Date: August 5th, 2013
Winning Score: -15, Won by seven strokes
Earnings: $1.4 Million
Tiger’s most recent victory on the PGA Tour came here in 2013, and this one was over early. After opening rounds of 66-61, Tiger took a seven stroke lead into the weekend and never looked back. Come Sunday night, his total of 15-under was more than enough for the win. In doing so, he tied the record for most wins in a tournament (eight), a record that was previously shared by Sam Snead and Tiger himself thanks to his eight wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Career win: 58th
Date: August 5th, 2007
Winning Score: -8, Won by eight strokes
Earnings: $1.35 Million
The lone man to finish under-par for the week, Tiger decimated the field with precision and power. Starting the final round one shot back of 54-hole leader Rory Sabbatini, Tiger blew him and the field away on Sunday; starting the day with birdies on four of his first six holes en route to a final-round 65. Perhaps calling Tiger “the most beatable he’s ever been” was a poor choice for Rory.
The win marked the third time Tiger had staged a Sunday comeback to win at Firestone, and the eight-stroke romp would end up being the largest margin of victory on Tour in 2007. It also marked the second time in his career Tiger had won this event three years in a row. A week later Tiger captured his 13th major title; winning the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Career win: 12th
Date: August 29th, 1999
Winning Score: -10, Won by 1 stroke
Earnings: $1 Million
After a remarkable Saturday 62, Tiger Woods led by five strokes entering the final round. With all 11 of Tiger’s wins at this point coming after holding a 54-hole lead, number 12 looked like a foregone conclusion. On this day though, Tiger would need to hold off a charging Phil Mickelson.
“You do get the feeling sometimes that the rest of us are all out there playing for second place.” – Fred Couples after Tiger’s Saturday 62.
“I had a wonderful round yesterday. It’s always the hardest thing to do; is come out the next day and play a good round of golf.” – Tiger before his final round
After bogeys on 14 and 15 trimmed Tiger’s lead to one, he bounced back with a birdie and a patented Tiger fist-pump on 17 to give himself a two-shot cushion heading into the final hole. A two-putt bogey from 60 feet would secure Tiger’s first of eight wins at Firestone CC.
“Winning never gets old. It’s the greatest cliche ever, but it is so true.”
Career win: 70th
Date: August 9th, 2009
Winning Score: -12, Won by four strokes
Earnings: $1.4 Million
Another come from behind victory at Firestone, this time at the hands of Padraig Harrington. Trailing the Irishman down the stretch, the turning point came when Tiger stuffed an 8-iron to within inches on the Par-5 16th, while Harrington flubbed an attempted flop shot into the lake in front of the green. The massive swing took Tiger from one-back, to three ahead, and with a birdie on 18 Tiger went on to win by four.
With his seventh win at Firestone, Tiger became the first player on either the PGA or European Tour to win a stroke-play event at the same course seven times. It was also his 16th WGC win in 30 attempts; a winning percentage of 53%.
Career win: 45th
Date: August 21st, 2005
Winning Score: -6, Won by one stroke
Earnings: $1.3 Million
Tiger shared the 54-hole lead with Kenny Perry, but it would be Chris DiMarco; a few months after getting beat by Tiger at Augusta, who would be Tiger’s biggest obstacle on this day. Maybe, that is, aside from Tiger’s putter. Three bogeys in a seven hole stretch to close out his front-nine left Woods in danger of letting this one slip away. But birdies on his 10th and 16th holes were enough to give him the outright lead standing on the 18th tee. After a drive in the trees, DiMarco looked as though he might have a shot at a playoff. Not so fast. In classic Tiger fashion, he would thread the needle on his approach, narrowly avoiding the three trees in his sights.
A tap-in par would ensue shorty thereafter, and Tiger was in the winning circle at Firestone for the fourth time in six tries. It also marked his 10th World Golf Championships victory in the 20 events he had competed in.
Career win: 23rd
Date: August 27th, 2000
Winning Score: -21, Won by 11 strokes
Earnings: $1 Million
After a second round 61 from Tiger, this one was really never in doubt. Come Sunday evening, he set a tournament record for margin of victory (11) and lowest score (-21). It was his last full swing that this one is remembered for though. An 8-iron from 167 yards to two-feet in the darkness, illuminated by car beams and upheld lighters, is still considered one of Tiger’s greatest moments. It also led to this great exchange in the CBS broadcast booth:
David Feherty : “This one appears to be online, I think.”
— Ball drops beside hole —
Jim Nantz: “Oh, no! You can’t! You can’t do that! That can’t happen.”
Lanny Wadkins: “I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it”
Tiger to camera: “How about that, huh? Not bad, hey Finchy? (to on-course reporter Ian Baker-Finch)
After Tiger drained the final putt, the CBS crew summed up what they had just seen:
Jim Nantz: “He’s left them in the dark again.”
Lanny Wadkins: “I’ve never seen the likes of this.”
Career win: 52nd
Date: August 27th, 2006
Winning Score: -10, Won in a playoff
Earnings: $1.3 Million
A new name for the tournament kicked in this year as Bridgestone took over for NEC as title sponsor, but on the course it was much of the same result. This was actually the fourth straight victory for Tiger, a run that included capturing the British Open and PGA Championships earlier in the summer.
Tiger would defeat Stewart Cink on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff, but the win wasn’t without some controversy. After hitting a cart-path with his approach to the ninth hole during Friday’s second round, Tiger’s ball ricocheted onto the roof of the clubhouse where it was somehow found by a member of the kitchen staff and possibly more perplexingly, deemed to be in-bounds. Tiger received a free-drop and went onto bogey the hole. Had the ball not been found, or deemed out of bounds, a double-bogey or worse would have been staring him right in the face. Nonetheless it was found, it was deemed in bounds, and the rest is history.
“I dont know how that ball wasn’t out of bounds, first of all. And then they somehow found it, and somehow it was 84 yards from the hole (laughs). So, lets just say I hit a 9-iron a little too far.” – Tiger commenting on his lucky break during the second round
Career win: 29th
Date: August 26th, 2001
Winning Score: -12, Won in a playoff
Earnings: $1 Million
Tiger’s third straight victory at Firestone, but his first in come-from-behind fashion. Trailing Jim Furyk by two strokes entering the final round, it quickly became clear with no other player getting within three strokes of Furyk and Woods, that one of the two would end the day as the victor; it was just a matter of which one.
After trading leads on the 13th and 15th, both players stuck it close on 16, where Tiger would cash the putt and make the two all-square. After pars on 17, the two were not only tied as they came up the 18th, but both ended up in the same greenside bunker. Neither were able to get up-and-down, so off they went to a playoff.
The drama would continue there, as Furyk holed a bunker shot for par on the first playoff hole to extend the tournament. At the second, Tiger responded by making a long putt of his own to keep things going.
Finally on the seventh playoff hole, it was Tiger’s time to pounce. With Furyk looking at par at best, Tiger stuck his approach shot to within three feet. A short putt later, and Tiger’s quest for a three-peat was complete.
“It’s fun to compete like that, where we’re tested to the absolute utmost” – Tiger in his post-round press conferece
“It’s exciting to get the chance to go up against the number one player in the world for 72 holes, and then seven playoff holes. It’s exciting.” – Jim Furyk’s post-round comments