SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Tiger Woods withstood a late bogey, double-bogey, par, bogey wobble in strengthening winds to end a week of dominant golf by clinching his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots at the Farmers Insurance Open on Monday.
Six strokes in front overnight at 17 under with 11 holes to play in the fog-delayed final round, Woods kept his closest challengers at bay as he signed off with a level-par 72 on a cold, sun-splashed afternoon at Torrey Pines.
The 14-times major champion briefly moved eight ahead before his unexpected stumble in increasingly difficult conditions over the four-hole stretch from the 14th but he parred the last to post a 14-under total of 274.
Defending champion Brandt Snedeker dropped one shot in the five holes he had to complete on Monday, carding a 69 to tie for second with fellow American Josh Teater (69).
“It got a little ugly toward the end,” Woods said greenside after removing his cap and raising both arms skywards to celebrate his seventh victory at the event.
“We played nine holes in just over three hours, and three of them are par threes. I started losing my patience a little bit, and that’s when I made a few mistakes.
“But all my good play before that really allowed me to afford those mistakes. I’m excited the way I played all week. I hit the ball well, pretty much did everything well this week and built myself a nice little cushion.”
Woods triumphed in a third different PGA Tour event for a seventh time, having already recorded seven wins apiece at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
His 75th career victory on the U.S. circuit put him seven behind the record 82 piled up by Sam Snead, the only player ahead of him in the all-time standings.
“A win always makes it special,” said Woods, who clinched the most recent of his 14 majors in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. “Does it feel good? Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely. I’m excited about this year.”
The first Monday finish in 61 editions of the Farmers Insurance Open was played at a painfully slow pace, Woods and his two partners having to wait on virtually every tee before they could proceed.
Having started the day with a commanding six-shot lead after seven holes, Woods safely parred the short eighth to maintain his advantage.
Though he pushed his drive well right of the fairway at the par-five ninth, taking a free drop after his ball ended up by a fence, he recovered well to par the hole and reach the turn in three-under 33.
Former champion Nick Watney, who had birdied the ninth to move briefly five strokes off the pace, slid backwards with bogeys at the 10th and 12th to hand Woods a seven-stroke cushion.
As the winds began to strengthen, Woods conjured a magical sand shot at the par-three 11th from an awkward stance with both feet outside a greenside bunker, his ball settling a foot from the hole for a tap-in par.
A two-putt birdie at the par-five 13th put Woods eight strokes clear but he then faltered with a bogey at the par-four 14th where he found rough off the tee and a greenside bunker with his approach.
Worse was to follow at the par-four 15th where he ran up a double-bogey after hooking his drive into a hazard via a tree and losing his ball. He missed a bogey putt from 10 feet to slide back to 15 under.
Woods also bogeyed the 17th, coming up short with a five-iron approach to end up in a greenside bunker, for his lead to be trimmed to four before he comfortably parred the last.
Watney, winner here in 2009, bogeyed four of his last nine holes for a 71 to finish in a tie for fourth at nine under with fellow American Jimmy Walker (71).
“Today was a bit rocky,” said five-times PGA Tour champion Watney. “I don’t know if it was the wind or whatever it was.
“I’m close to doing some good things, and I just want to get a little closer next time. I don’t if anybody would have beaten him this week,” he said of Woods. “He’s definitely on his game.”
Three-times champion Phil Mickelson closed with a 70 to share 51st place at level-par 288, a distant 14 strokes behind Woods.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue