Tiger Woods Passes Nicklaus’s Win Total With Third Title of 2012

Tiger Woods trails only Sam Snead in career U.S. PGA Tour wins after surpassing Jack Nicklaus’s total with a two-shot victory at the AT&T National.

Woods, 36, shot a 2-under-par 69 during yesterday’s final round at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, to become the first golfer to win three PGA Tour events in a season since Jim Furyk in 2010.

Woods finished with a four-round total of 8 under 276, two better than Bo Van Pelt, who bogeyed the final three holes. It was the third win in the past seven starts for Woods, pushing his total to 74 victories in 271 starts as a professional. Only Snead, with 82 wins, has more.

“I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again,” Woods, who received $1.17 million, said yesterday at a news conference. “That was, I think, what, six months ago? Here we are.”

Woods, who remains fourth in golf’s Official World Ranking, in March ended a 2 1/2-year winless drought on the PGA Tour with a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and followed it up with a win at the Memorial Tournament in June. Hunter Mahan and Jason Dufner are the only two other golfers with multiple titles on the U.S. tour this season.

“It was just a matter of time,” Woods said. “I could see the pieces coming together. If you look at my ball-striking so far this year, it’s gotten more and more consistent.”

Woods, whose foundation hosts the AT&T National, shot 1- over-par 72 in the opening round and then followed it up with scores of 68, 67 and 69.

No Fans

Fans had been prohibited from attending the tournament during the third round because of a storm that had knocked out power and uprooted trees both on the course and along the roads leading to Congressional, which had hosted the 2011 U.S. Open.

With the galleries back for yesterday’s final round, Woods had three birdies to move atop the leaderboard before making his lone bogey at the par-5 16th hole.

Van Pelt, who was seeking his second PGA Tour win, also bogeyed the 16th and then fell out of a share for the lead with his bogeys at the final two holes.

After his final-round 71, Van Pelt said Woods appears comfortable with the swing changes he’s implemented. While Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood remain ahead of Woods in the rankings, Van Pelt said Woods has regained his status as the world’s best golfer.

Van Pelt Praise

“No offense to any of those other guys, but I think he’s the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, on three different courses, and he was leading the U.S. Open after two days,” Van Pelt said. “I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”

Adam Scott finished third at 5-under par, one shot better than Robert Garrigus, Jhonattan Vegas, Seung-Yul Noh and Billy Hurley III. Brendon de Jonge, who had a one-shot lead entering the final round, closed with a 6-over 77 to tie for 11th place.

The PGA Tour next moves to White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia for the $6.1 million Greenbrier Classic from July 5-8. It will be Woods’s final event before the British Open, the season’s third major, which is scheduled for July 19-22 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in northwest England.

“I’m going to play next week, and then I’m going to have to start practicing some different shots and getting used to hitting the ball a little bit lower, a little bit more flighted,” said Woods, who won the last of his 14 major championships at the 2008 U.S. Open. “It’s a totally different game playing links golf.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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