Tiger Woods moved past Jack Nicklaus into second place on the PGA Tour's all-time wins list Sunday by capturing the $6.5 million AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. The 36-year-old Woods now has 74 victories and trails only Sam Snead with 82.
Woods closed with a 2-under-par 69 to outlast Bo Van Pelt by two strokes and earn his second AT&T National title. Tiger finished with a 72-hole score of 8-under 276 and became the first three-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2012.
Woods earned 500 FedExCup points to climb to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, a position he hasn't held since 2009. It marked his 22nd come-from-behind win. All told, Tiger has won 74 out of 271 pro starts on the PGA Tour, a winning percentage of 27.3.
To make the triumph even sweeter, Woods serves as host of the event, which donates proceeds to college-access programs of the Tiger Woods Foundation and local youth organizations.
Starting the final round in a three-way tie for second place, one stroke behind leader Brendon de Jonge, Woods was paired with de Jonge and Bo Van Pelt in the final threesome. Once again, temperatures were in the low 90s. But unlike Saturday, when spectators were not permitted on the course due to a fierce overnight thunderstorm that leveled 40 trees and created numerous safety issues, the fans were out in full force.
"What an incredible week," said Woods, who pocketed $1,170,000. "Everybody, thank you for being patient with us. Yesterday was a silent day. I think everyone saved up for today. What an atmosphere to play in front of."
At one point during the front nine, five players were deadlocked for first place. Tiger pulled ahead by a stroke with a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fifth, but Van Pelt caught him with a birdie at the par-5 sixth. Woods rolled in another 10-foot birdie at the long, par-5 ninth to retake the lead, but again Van Pelt answered with a birdie at par-4 11th.
The back nine boiled down to a tight match-play situation between Woods and Van Pelt.
Tiger recorded five consecutive pars, thanks to a near-miraculous second shot on the par-4 12th hole, where he hooked his drive near a big tree. Somehow, he flushed a 9-iron from 193 yards onto the middle of the green, the shaft glancing off the tree, and two-putted from 30 feet.
At the 490-yard, par-4 15th, Tiger hit a 9-iron from 152 yards that finished 22 feet above the cup, and his slick, right-to-left putt just barely reached the cup for a birdie. Van Pelt countered with a nine-foot birdie putt, and they remained tied.
Both players bogeyed the 579-yard, par-5 16th hole, snapping a streak of 41 consecutive holes without a bogey for Woods. He made a mistake on his third shot from 98 yards, the ball failing to check near the back pin placement and scooting down an eight-foot slope on tightly mown grass. Tiger almost holed the difficult fourth shot, the ball catching part of the cup and rolling 14 feet past, but he couldn't convert for par.
Fortunately for Woods, Van Pelt was having problems of his own. After a big drive, he came up just short of the green with a 6-iron, the ball taking a bad bounce into heavy rough on the left. Faced with an awkward stance and lie, his third shot came up short of the green, and he wasn't able to get up and down after that, bogeying to stay deadlocked.
The momentum swung at the 437-yard, par-4 17th, where Tiger hit a fairway wood into the first cut of the right rough and Van Pelt drove into the left primary rough. Woods came up just short of the green from 172 yards with an 8-iron, while Van Pelt airmailed the putting surface with his approach. Van Pelt was unable to save par, but Tiger chipped six feet short of the cup and poured his par putt into the center of the hole.
"It was just on top of the right edge," he said. "I felt very comfortable with it."
Moving to the tough, 523-yard, par-4 finishing hole, Woods pulled out driver and hit his best shot of the day, a 345-yard blast that found the right side of the fairway. From there, he hit a beautifully-judged 9-iron from about 190 yards down the hill and wound up pin-high, 15 feet left of the hole. Van Pelt missed the green with his second shot, gave his third shot a bold run at the pin, and was unable to save par, closing with three straight bogeys.
After easily two-putting for a par, Woods raised both arms skyward and acknowledged the huge crowd, most of whom gave him a standing ovation.
"He's an amazing player," Van Pelt said. "We've known each other for a long time, probably 20 years. He's fun to play with. That's why you travel 30 weeks a year, why you get up in the morning and you make the sacrifices you do, to have the opportunity to play the best player in the world in the final round with a chance to win the tournament."
On the day, Tiger hit 83 percent of the greens and 57 percent of the fairways in regulation, and used 31 putts.
Woods returns to competition next week when he makes his first appearance in The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.