While Bart Bryant ultimately had to settle for a runner-up finish Sunday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the journeyman professional managed to do something that not many other players have been able to do this year — challenge Tiger Woods.
Bryant was steady down the stretch and posted a final-round score of 2-under-par 68 Sunday to take the clubhouse lead at 9 under at Bay Hill and appeared to be on his way to a playoff with the world No. 1-ranked player. As it turned out, Woods rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to pull out the dramatic victory and leave Bryant in second place.
"I played about like I thought I was supposed to and I felt if I could play the last four holes well, I could put the pressure on Tiger and make him make a birdie coming down the stretch," Bryant told reporters Sunday. "That's why Tiger's Tiger."
Bryant said it was almost a helpless feeling, sitting in the scorer's trailer, waiting for Woods to hit his final putt. A TV camera fixed on Bryant captured the Texas native letting out a chuckle of disbelief after he heard the crowd cheering when Woods' putt rolled into the cup.
"Obviously, I'm extremely disappointed," Bryant said. "I'd be lying if I said I wish he had not made the putt. I really wanted to be in the playoff, but what are you going to do?"
Bryant shot four rounds in the 60s for his best performance of the year, earning him $626,400. He has now made the cut in six of seven tournaments, including four top-25 finishes, and ranks 17th in the FedEx Cup points standings.
Ranked No. 134 in the world, Bryant nearly had a chance to stop Woods' PGA Tour winning streak in a playoff.
"I'm lucky to get up there and compete with him every now and then," Bryant said. "I think the difference is when I'm competing with Tiger, I'm really playing well ... if I have a chance to win a golf tournament and I'm competing with Tiger, I'm probably pretty much on my game."
In terms of sheer celebration, Woods' emphatic hat spike after winning on the 72nd hole of the Arnold Palmer Invitational might top the list of his 64 career PGA Tour victories. However, Woods said he wasn't quite sure where the victory that tied him with Ben Hogan for third on the all-time victories chart stacks up.
"I don't know where it ranks but it got me a victory," Woods told reporters. "The putt was nice. It was great to make the putt, but I was so excited the 5-iron I hit in there to give myself a putt at it."
In fact, after struggling a good share of the week with his swing, Woods said he might have been more impressed with his approach shot from 164 yards out that set up his winning birdie putt.
"You have to understand, I had not hit the ball well the last three days and then to have that shot with everything on the line, to hit a shot and give myself a putt at it — you saw Stevie and I celebrate in the fairway," Woods said. "I was so fired up I hit the shot the way I wanted to (and) just tried to make sure I kept that [positive attitude] going into the putt."
What can a pair of back-to-back good weeks do for a player? Consider Sean O'Hair, who was No. 162 in the FedEx Cup standings two weeks ago before winning the PODS Championship one week before finishing tied for third at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
O'Hair is now fifth in the FedEx Cup standings. He has already accumulated more points this year (5,981) than he did in all of 2007 (4,580).
So, what's going on inside the mind of a hot golfer?
"Really not much," O'Hair told reporters. "Just trying to just continue to just keep doing what I'm doing. I just felt like I was allowing it to happen.
"It's almost like you've got to stay out of your own way. You can't think about what you're shooting. You can't think about what you want to shoot. You just have to take it one shot at a time and I did a good job with that."
• Tiger Woods will be shooting for his seventh World Golf Championships-CA Championship this week at Doral. He's won his six previous titles on six different golf courses in four different countries. The world No. 1 has a history of success at Doral, winning the CA Championship there last year, and he won the last two years of the old Ford Championship at Doral.
• If Woods manages to extend his winning streak in this week's CA Championship, he will be just one victory at the event shy of tying Sam Snead's mark of eight wins in a single event. Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.
• Woods' 24-foot, two-inch winning putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was the fourth longest final-hole winning putt in the ShotLink era. Padraig Harrington (65 feet, seven inches) at the 2005 Barclays, Spike McRoy (31 feet, one inch) at the 2002 B.C. Open and Vijay Singh (26 feet, eight inches) at the 2004 Zurich Classic of New Orleans were the only players to hole longer putts to win on the final green by a single stroke.
• The first official PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico will take place this week, opposite of the WGC-CA Championship. The Puerto Rico Open will debut with a 132-man field.
March 19, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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