Tiger takes FedEx Cup lead with victory in BMW Championship

LEMONT, Ill. &

Tiger Woods got some separation at the BMW Championship.

He pulled away from Aaron Baddeley and Steve Stricker, who were applying enormous pressure behind him at Cog Hill. And his two-shot victory Sunday allowed Woods to pull away from Phil Mickelson, who was watching from home.

When the cheers finally subsided in another compelling finish in the PGA Tour Playoffs, Woods walked off with an 8-under 63 for his sixth victory of the season. It put his name in the record books for a variety of feats and restored him to the top of the playoff standings with one week remaining in the FedEx Cup.

All that mattered to Woods was making putts.

It was his best round on the greens all week at Cog Hill, none bigger than a 50-foot birdie that stretched from one end of the green to the other on the par-3 12th that got him back on track.

"With conditions this soft, the guys are just going to tear this place apart," Woods said. "I think the three of us just got wrapped up in it. We were all making birdies, and we kept pushing each other. I just made a few more on that back nine."

The 63 tied the course record at Cog Hill (Woods already was a part-owner) and matched his best closing round on tour. He finished at 22-under 262 to break by five shots the tournament scoring record that Scott Hoch set in 2001 and Woods matched two years later.

And it was the 60th victory of his PGA Tour, making the 31-year-old Woods the youngest player to hit that milestone.

As for the FedEx Cup, he's right where most people figured he would be.

Despite skipping the first tournament in the playoffs, Woods had a 3,133-point lead over Stricker, who finished third at the BMW Championship, and a 4,120-point lead over Mickelson, who decided to skip Chicago after winning in Boston.

So it comes down to this at East Lake for the Tour Championship:

"" A victory by Woods clinches the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize.

"" Stricker can win the FedEx Cup by winning at East Lake, which would be his second victory in these playoffs.

"" Mickelson could capture the cup if he wins the Tour Championship and Woods finishes lower than second alone.

"" Rory Sabbatini (No.4) and K.J. Choi (No. 5) have to win the Tour Championship and hope that Woods finishes out of the top 15, something the world's No. — player hasn't done since the Memorial in early June.

What does all this mean to Woods?

"You just go play," he said. "You try and win the tournament. As I've always said, winning takes care of everything, so you don't have to worry about it if you win."

Winning is rarely a problem for Woods.

He appeared mildly surprised when told the BMW Championship was the 60th victory of his 11 years on the PGA Tour. But it lost a little significant when Woods was reminded that he picked up No. 50 only 13 months ago at the Buick Open.

"Not bad," he said.

This was his 12th victory in his last 21 starts &

that's as many as the next eight guys in the world ranking have won since then.

But it was hard work.

Woods figured something around 20 under would be enough to win on Sunday, but the cheers wouldn't go away.

He heard them for his four birdies on the front nine, capped by a scramble out of the trees on the par-5 ninth in which he had to hit 6-iron from 211 yards on his third shot to the green. But he heard just as many behind him for Baddeley and Stricker, who matched his birdies at the turn in a mad scramble to take the lead.

"Everything was just a lot of fun for all of us," Woods said. "I think the fans got into it, which was great to hear, great to feel, and you could hear all the roars back behind us with Badds and Stricks making all those birdies."

But they only continued for one player.

Baddeley picked up birdies on the par 5s along the back nine, but he couldn't keep up for long and had to settle for a 66 and second place to himself.

"I feel like I did well in that I didn't lose the golf tournament. He won it," Baddeley said. "Shooting 8 under to win a golf tournament is a heck of a round. He just made a couple extra birdies at the finish there to get by us."

Stricker's hopes ended when he took bogey on the par-3 12th, his tee shot hitting a tree and bouncing into the fairway. He made a meaningless bogey on the 18th for a 68 to finish four shots behind Woods.

"There isn't a lot you can do," Stricker said. "I would have had to shoot 63 today to beat him. When you see him ahead of us making the birdies and hearing the roars, you know that he's on a roll and not making many mistakes. It's tough."

Stricker had a front-row seat for the turning point, arriving on the 12th tee just in time to watch Woods make his monster putt.

"It looked like he looked back to make sure that we were watching him make birdie," Stricker said.

Not so, Woods replied.

"I didn't do a Sergio," Woods said with a smile, referring to when Sergio Garcia stared him down at nearby Medinah eight years ago in a fruitless chase at the PGA Championship.

The only question was what await at East Lake.

The tour left a two-page notice on players' lockers Sunday morning saying that record heat has severely damaged the greens at East Lake, forcing officials to cancel the pro-am round Wednesday and ban players from so much as setting foot on the greens until the first round on Thursday.

"We're all going to have to make the best of it," Stricker said. "Obviously, it's not what they wanted, it's not what we wanted, but there's no sense complaining about it."

No one has seen them yet, but Woods was bracing for the worst.

"You don't want to say this, but it's true &

you're going to have to accept missing a bunch of putts," he said.

That sure wasn't the case at Cog Hill.

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