Mahan wins; Woods still number one

Hunter Mahan has closed with a blistering 64 to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – and Tiger Woods is still World No 1.

Hunter Mahan closed with a blistering final round 64 at Firestone Country Club on Sunday to win the prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.
This in the same event in which the 21st Century’s greatest golfer, Tiger Woods, somehow managed to retain his position as world number one, despite suffering his worst tournament finish ever as a professional.
Mahan’s first victory in a World Golf Championships event assured him of a place in the American Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in October while Woods stumbling performance might well be a sign that he is not ready for the Celtic Manor battle between the USA and Europe..
Three strokes off the pace going into the final round at Firestone Country Club, 28-year-old Mahan charged into contention with a sizzling, five-under front-nine 30 and made two clutch putts to save par over the last four holes to post a 12-under total of 268 and finish two clear of fellow American Ryan Palmer.
With Woods finishing joint 78th in the 80-man field after a closing round of 77, Phil Mickelson knew he needed to finish fourth or better to move top of the world rankings.
The US Masters champion was joint 10th overnight and four shots off the lead, but endured a nightmare front nine of 41 to end his weekend chances of ending Woods’ five-year reign.
Mickelson finished with an eight over 78 in a tie for 46th, meaning Woods’ stretch as world number one, which has run for 269 weeks since June 2005, is to continue until at least next week’s US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin.
After finding a greenside bunker in two on the par-five second, Mickelson surprisingly thinned his recovery well over the green to run up a bogey six.
Worse was to come with a hat-trick of bogeys from the sixth followed by a double bogey six on the ninth, while yet more dropped shots on the 12th and 13th left Mickelson eight over par for the day and with a three over total of 283.
“It was a rough day if you couldn’t tell,” said Mickelson on
“I felt pretty good today. I felt good on the range, I hit some good shots.
“I felt like I was sharp and ready to go attack the golf course and make some birdies. And it just didn’t happen.
“I don’t know what to say. The round obviously got away.
“It didn’t feel like it was far off. But it turned out to be.”
Earlier in the day, Woods had carded three birdies, six bogeys and two double bogeys to finish 18 over par at Firestone, a venue where he had won on his previous four visits and a US Tour record seven times in all.
That set an unwanted record for the world number one’s highest 72-hole score in relation to par, while his total of 298 was also his highest score through four rounds of his PGA Tour career.
Woods’ previous worst finish as a professional in an event in which he played four rounds was a tie for 60th at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, his professional debut.
Speaking to reporters after his round, Woods said: “Shooting 18 over is no fun. It’s tough.
“The only thing I can say is that all week I was patient. Unfortunately that’s not enough.”
Woods is currently outside the automatic qualifying places for the US Ryder Cup team with just one counting event remaining.
And asked if he wanted to play at Celtic Manor from October 1 to 3, he added: “Not playing like this. I would not help the team if I was playing like this.
“I think I can turn it around. We have a lot of time between now and then, which is good.”
With the number one ranking up for grabs, the race for the title took second billing.
However, the third PGA Tour victory of his career and his second of the season was significant for Mahan, whose place in the United States’ Ryder Cup team appears almost certain as a result.
Mahan’s bogey free 64 – the joint-low round of the day with Jim Furyk – earned a two-shot victory over Ryan Palmer, who carded a 69 to finish on 10 under.
“I was hitting it sharp all week,” said Mahan, who carded birdies on holes three, four, five, eight and nine as well as the 13th.
“I knew if I could get some pressure on them and get some momentum on my side early, maybe I could make a push for the lead and make something happen the last few holes.
“I got hot on that front nine.
“It feels great to win a tournament like this, the best players in the world are here.”
Retief Goosen (65) and Bo van Pelt (67) finished in a tie for third, three shots behind, Sean O’Hair was alone in fifth a shot further back, while Furyk and Jeff Overton (69) tied for sixth on seven under.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson (71) was the best-placed European on six under, with Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (65) of South Africa tied for ninth on five under alongside Padraig Harrington (66), Adam Scott (67), Steve Stricker (67), Rory McIlroy (69) and Matt Kuchar (73).