AKRON, Ohio — The battle was everything Tiger Woods expected. The finish was nothing anyone imagined, except for Woods hoisting another World Golf Championship trophy at Firestone.
Woods was in trouble in the trees on the famous par-5 16th hole, one shot behind Padraig Harrington, trying to figure out how he could squeeze out a victory Sunday in the Bridgestone Invitational.
He delivered another signature moment, this one an eight-iron from 178 that wound up a foot from the hole for birdie. Moments later, with an official timing his every shot, Padraig Harrington rushed his way into a stunning meltdown. He hit five straight shots without losing his turn, made triple bogey and became a mere bystander the final two holes as Woods won for the 70th time in his career.
Woods closed with a 5-under 65, becoming the first player in PGA Tour history to win seven times on the same golf course and giving him back-to-back victories going into the PGA Championship, his last chance to win a major this year.
Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., shot even-par 70 on the day to finish alone in 10th, eight shots back.
Woods won it with an eight-iron that was pure theatre.
“When I hit it, I knew it was going to be a good one,” he said. “I thought it was going to be just a little bit past the hole. I was surprised it spun that much considering it was that much downwind. But it came back and ended up a kick-in.”
He believes Harrington lost it with a stopwatch that was unnecessary.
They were timed earlier in the round, then told by John Paramor, the PGA European Tour’s chief referee, they were on the clock on the 16th tee, with Harrington in the lead by one shot. Knowing he had no time to contemplate his escape from the trees, the collar of a bunker and a dicey flop shot behind the green, he turned the hole known as “The Monster” into an utter mess.
The pivotal play was his fourth shot behind the green, which came out hot and into the water.
“I had an awkward fourth shot,” Harrington said. “I had to go after it and probably rushed that a bit. That was the end of that.”
Harrington told Woods when it was over, “We’ll do battle many times again.”
Woods, who holds the three-time major champion in high esteem, looked forward to that.
“Like I was telling him out there, ’I’m sorry that John got in the way of a great battle,’ because it was such a great battle for 16 holes,” Woods said. “We’re going at it, head-to-head, and unfortunately that happened. Paddy and I will definitely do it again.”
Asked if he won because of an eight-iron or a stopwatch, Woods replied, “Both.”
Paramor said the final pairing was 17 minutes behind schedule on the 16th hole and “we had no choice but to put them on the clock.”
The dispute clouded an otherwise remarkable rally for Woods, who won his 16th title in just 30 starts in the World Golf Championships series, and picked up a lot of momentum headed to Hazeltine.
Woods, who has won the Bridgestone Invitational seven times in 10 starts and has never finished out of the top five, closed out his remarkable afternoon in style with a six-foot birdie putt.
His fifth victory this year and 70th of his PGA Tour career put him three behind Jack Nicklaus, and 12 victories away from the all-time record held by Sam Snead.
“We locked horns pretty good,” Woods said. “I made a couple of mistakes. Paddy was being consistent, grinding it out, doing all the right things. Unfortunately, 16 happened. But it was a great battle all day.”