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Zach Johnson Chases Down Tiger
Zack Johnson birdied two of the final three holes to tie Tiger Woods in regulation, and then overcame the top-ranked player in the world with a par on the first playoff hole to win the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. The $3.5 million invitation-only event was held for the final time at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Though Johnson's birdies got him into a tie with Woods, it was his amazing par on the 18th that kept him with a share of the lead at 13-under 275. After his approach found the water on Sherwood's par-4 closer, Johnson holed-out from the drop area for an unlikely par to send what was essentially a two-man match into extra holes.
On the first extra hole, again the 18th, Woods found the deep bunker in front of the green and missed his par putt from five feet. Meanwhile, Johnson's second found the left side of the green and he two-putted for the victory.
Johnson's clutch play down the stretch helped him overcome a four-stroke deficit with eight holes to play Sunday. Woods, the host of the event that's a fundraiser for his Tiger Woods Foundation, expressed admiration for the diminutive Iowan's play at the end.
"It was pretty impressive what he did the last three holes," Woods told a TV reporter. "I had a two-shot lead starting out the day. Zach, I don't know how the last three iron shots didn't go in the hole. It was pretty impressive on 16, 17 and 18. He got me."
Of his spectacular hole-out on the 72nd hole, Johnson said, "The (drop-area) shot was a little bit too dramatic for me. I'm lucky it went in."
The victory earned Johnson $1 million.
Bubba Watson (70) and Matt Kuchar (67) finished tied for third at 9-under 279, while another two strokes back was Webb Simpson (68). Two-time World Challenge winner Graeme McDowell (69) ended up in sixth at 283, and Ian Poulter also closed with a 69 to take seventh at 285.
Jim Furyk shot a 71 for eighth at 286, and another stroke back were Bill Haas (72) and Jason Day (73) in the tournament featuring all players in the world top-30.
Rounding out the leaderboard was Rory McIlroy (70) in 11th at even-par 288, followed by Hunter Mahan (69, 291). Keegan Bradley (74) and Jason Dufner (69) sharing 13th at 292; Steve Stricker (72, 295) in 15th; Lee Westwood (74) and Jordan Spieth (71) at 297, and Dustin Johnson (74) in last at 11-over 299.
For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.