Golf

‘Living legend’ Tiger Woods records 82nd PGA Tour victory

Nicklaus leads the tributes to Woods after he matches Snead's 54-year-old mark

Tiger Woods said it was "crazy" after he made golfing history yesterday by holding off the challenge of home favourite Hideki Matsuyama to win the weather-delayed Zozo Championship by three shots.

The 15-time Major winner finished at 19-under 261 to equal the legendary Sam Snead's all-time record of 82 US PGA Tour victories set 54 years ago.

Woods, in his first outing since arthroscopic knee surgery two months ago, broke into a huge smile after he safely got up and down from a greenside bunker at the 18th for a birdie and three-under final round of 67.

"It's just crazy. It's a lot," the 43-year-old said of his 82nd official Tour victory. His first came 23 years ago this month in Las Vegas when he was just 20.

"It's been a long week, five days at the top of the board is a long time. It was definitely stressful."

He led from gun to tape in the inaugural US PGA Tour event in Japan, which saw Friday's play washed out by the fringes of a typhoon that dumped almost 10 inches of rain on the course 80km from Tokyo, forcing play into an extra day.

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy finished birdie-birdie for a 67 and a share of third place on 267 with South Korea's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Im Sung Jae, who carded a fine 65.

"This was big," said a smiling Woods. "Hideki made it tight. It was a lot closer than what people probably thought. Hideki put heat on me."

Woods' victory made all but certain his appearance in one global golf event and boosted his chances of competing in another.

He will captain the American side at December's Presidents Cup in Australia and, even before winning at Narashino Country Club, he had been widely expected to choose himself as one of his four captain's picks to join the eight automatic qualifiers on the team.

"I think certainly as a player, I got the captain's attention," he joked after winning.

Woods has one more week to assess the form of potential choices.

He will be watching from afar as some of them have a final audition at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament starting in Shanghai on Thursday.

While the Presidents Cup is just around the corner, next year's Olympics in Tokyo also looms large.

Only the top four Americans in the world rankings will qualify, so Woods' place is far from assured.

He vaulted from 10th to sixth in the world with his win, but is still only the fourth-ranked American behind Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

Another American legend, Jack Nicklaus, who has won 18 Majors, led the tributes to Woods yesterday, tweeting: "Incredibly happy for @TigerWoods - and for game of golf - on his 82nd @PGATOUR win.

HEALTHY TIGER

"For a number of years, all we wanted was to see Tiger healthy again, but for his quality of life.

"But it's very obvious that the surgery and the hard work Tiger put in resulted in quality of golf!"

World No. 14 Tony Finau, who was also in the field in Japan, called Woods a "Living legend!" on Twitter.

"Congrats on No. 82 @TigerWoods!" he added, as social media lit up on the news of yet another career comeback milestone.

PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan was watching from home in the US and told AFP by phone: "It's just one of those 'wow' moments.

"When you see something happen in sport that you didn't think was possible, it's just a really historic and special moment for our sport."

"To be our inaugural event and to have Tiger win it, when you think of Tiger, you think of his global reach and his global relevancy," added Monahan on Woods' notching a PGA Tour win in a record seventh different country. - AFP

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