DUBLIN, Ohio — Two holes, two towering shots, two clutch birdies.
Just like that, Tiger Woods broke out of a four-way tie and won the Memorial on Sunday with a 7-under 65 to cap off a high-charged comeback. And just as suddenly, he silenced the skeptics who wondered if he was ready to defend his title in the U.S. Open in two weeks at Bethpage Black.
“I knew I could do this,” Woods said after birdies on the final two holes gave him a one-shot victory. “I was close to winning, but the game wasn’t quite there when I really needed it on Sunday. I rectified that.”
First came a 9-iron at No. 17 that Woods launched as high as he could, allowing the ball to land softly on the top shelf of a rock-hard green for a nine-foot birdie putt. More brilliance followed on the 18th, when Woods hit a 7-iron from 183 yards that stopped a foot from the hole, wrapping up his fourth title at Muirfield Village.
Then came a bold observation by tournament host Jack Nicklaus. He had said earlier in the week that Woods, with 14 career majors, would probably break his record of 18 majors in a couple of years.
“I suspect No. 15 will come for Tiger Woods in about two weeks,” Nicklaus said at the trophy presentation. “If he drives the ball this way, and plays this way, I’m sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly.”
There were no surprises Sunday for Woods, the best sign of all.
He hit the ball where he was aiming and found every fairway in the final round, the first time he had done that on the PGA Tour in more than five years. He missed only five fairways all week, his best performance off the tee since the 1998 Masters.
“It was nice to play this well going into the U.S. Open,” Woods said. “This is how you have to hit it in order to win U.S. Opens.”
He managed to work in some of Muirfield Village magic along the way, surging into contention by chipping in for eagle from a nasty lie in thick rough behind the 11th green.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Michael Letzig, who played with Woods. “It was the best golf I’d ever seen.”
Jim Furyk, part of the four-way tie on the back nine, made a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole that gave him a 69 and allowed him to finish alone in second. Furyk is close friends with Woods, and had been hearing the speculation that Woods was not the same.
“I just wish you all would just quick (ticking) him off . . . so he has to come back and keep proving stuff,” Furyk said.