ATLANTA—US Open champion Retief Goosen closed with a 6-under 64 Sunday to win the Tour Championship by four shots and become only the third player to overtake Tiger Woods in the final round.
Goosen made up a four-shot deficit on the front nine at East Lake, took the outright lead with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 13th and ended all the suspense with the best shot of the tournament.
From 195 yards in the rough, he hit a 5-iron into 3 feet for the only birdie of the day on the 481-yard 16th hole.
“I wasn’t trying to hit it dead at the flag, just a touch left,” Goosen said. “But those things happen.”
Losing a 54-hole lead almost never happens to Woods, although this has been a year like no other for him.
He lost a 36-hole lead in consecutive weeks in May for the first time in five years. And now he ends the season with only one victory, matching his lowest output in nine years on tour. He also won only once in 1998.
Woods’ only victory this year was the Match Play Championship in late February, and he now has gone 20 stroke-play tournaments without winning, the longest drought of his career.
“Very disappointing,” Woods said. “I felt like I had a golden opportunity to win a tournament.”
It was only the third time that Woods has failed to protect a 54-hole lead. Ed Fiori beat him in the 1996 Quad City Classic, and Phil Mickelson beat him at East Lake in the 2000 Tour Championship.
Woods played in the group behind Goosen and simply couldn’t keep up.
Two shots behind when he got to the 16th, Woods three-putted for bogey from about 25 feet and then hit into two bunkers to take another bogey on the 17th. He closed with a 72 and finished second.
Jay Haas, at 50 the oldest player ever in the Tour Championship, was tied with Woods going into the final round but struggled with his putter and fell apart down the stretch. He closed with a 75.
Goosen finished the year with multiple victories for the first time on the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour. He was at 11-under 269 and earned $1.08 million.
“It was a great round,” Goosen said. “I’m surprised to win by four strokes.”
Goosen won the US Open in June, stealing the thunder from Mickelson when Lefty took a double bogey from the bunker on the 71st hole at Shinnecock Hills.
This time, the Goose didn’t need anyone to make a mistake on the back nine.
“I looked up at the leaderboard, Goosen is making birdie after birdie. I was like, ‘Where are you going, bro?”’ Woods said. “He played well. I just wish I could have played a little better.”
Vijay Singh failed in a bid to win for the 10th time this year, but he went out on a positive note.
Eleven shots behind to start the final round, Singh made eight birdies through 15 holes until back-to-back bogeys ended his faint hope. He closed with a 65 to finish ninth—his 18th time in the top 10—and was sorry to see the year end.
“I can’t wait to get out there again,” Singh said. “It would have been nice to get 10 wins, but I’ll take nine.”
The 41-year-old Fijian earned $10,905,166.
Jerry Kelly, who could face shoulder surgery next week, had a 65 to finish third. Stephen Ames (70), Mark Hensby (67) and Mike Weir (70) were another shot back.
Woods is the best closer on the PGA Tour. He had a 30-2 record when he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead and had won the last 14 times from that position, dating to East Lake in 2000.
Everything appeared to be in his favor. Records aside, he was playing his best golf of the year and shared a four-shot lead with a man who had not won in 11 years.
But Woods struggled from the start.
He had to hole a 15-foot par putt on the opening hole, three-putted from 30 feet on the second for bogey and dropped another shot with a three-putt from 80 feet and just off the green at No. 5. When his chip from the steep bank of a bunker popped out high and 40 feet short—leading to his third bogey in seven holes—Woods angrily swung at the grass and looked as if he was losing his composure.
The only thing that helped is that no one else made a big move.
While Woods never had a decent look at birdie, Haas had several of them and couldn’t convert. Kelly surged into contention with six birdies on his first 11 holes. Goosen, playing in the group ahead of Woods and Haas, got into the mix quickly and took the lead by getting up-and-down from the bunker for a birdie on No. 9.
That set the stage for a dramatic back nine, with four guys battling for a sweet finish to the season.
It all ended with a smooth 5-iron from Goosen out of the rough for a rare birdie, and a rare occasion when Woods was the last guy to walk up to the 18th green—with the trophy already in someone else’s possession.