AKRON, Ohio: Even a struggling Tiger Woods proved too strong for the cream of golf when he won his fourth WGC-NEC Invitational on Sunday.
The 29-year-old carded a one-over par 71, but it was enough to give him a one-shot victory over fellow American Chris DiMarco.
But at times Woods looked anything but world No 1.
"I kept making silly mistakes," he admitted. "It was just so fustrating out there today. I hit some atrocious putts that weren't even close."
But when it mattered, Woods finally got his act together, and it was all too much for the elite field that contained the top 49 ranked players in the world.
Only Ernie Els was missing because of injury.
The final round had started out in what was expected to be a shoot out between Woods and his joint third round leader Kenny Perry.
And as Woods began missing putts, including two par putts from three feet, Perry moved two in front and looking in control.
As the two neared the turn, suddenly eveything changed as Perry found his game going south and Woods began to make things happen.
"I felt like I was playing well enough to be in the lead. I felt like going into today that if I just kept doing what I was doing I would be right there with a few holes to go and it ended up being that way," he explained.
And as DiMarco, who had already finished his round, watched on television from the player's lounge, Woods birdied the 16th to go one in front and only needing to par the last two holes.
For DiMarco, it was a case of deja vu.
It was Woods who beat him in a playoff at the Masters, aided by a sensational birdie putt on the 16th hole in the final round.
"Bridesmaid is getting old, I can promise you that, especially when I've played good enough to get there and not gotten it. This one really pisses me off," said DiMarco, who carded a final round two-under 68.
"I felt like I played good enough to win the Masters. I felt like I played very good golf today. This is good. Maybe it will light a fire under me."
For Woods it was another massive payday in a tournament that he has made his own.
Sunday netted him US$1.3 million, taking his total winning for the NEC in his seven outings to a staggering US$5.3 million.
A crestfallen Perry, who had to settle for a share of sixth, was in no mood to talk.
"There is not much to say except I played lousy," he commented.
Ireland's Paul McGinley flirted with the lead, briefly joining Woods and Perry atop the leaderboard, but the Dubliner was finding too much rough to stay in contention.
Then three putts from seven feet on 11 spelled disaster.
For a fleeting moment, a birdie at Firestone's infamous 667-yard par five 16th put him back at the top of the leaderboard. But Woods, in the final group, also birdied to take sole possession of the lead.
Then McGinley found the trees from the tee on the 17th and could only bogey the hole.
The Irishman finished sharing third place with Fiji's Vijay Singh and American Ryan Palmer and collected about US$400,000 for his efforts.
"The three-putt on 11 put me out of the ballgame. It was a day for battling and I really battled. I just left myself too much to do," he said.
Sergio Garcia's hopes vanished at the 14th.
The 25-year-old Spaniard, who was only two shots off the lead at the start and at one time got to within one, drove into the right rough.
He then hacked his ball into the left rough. From there he dropped it into the bunker guarding the left of the green.
He blasted out onto the fringe and two-putted for a double to crash to two-under.