Zach Johnson beats Woods to win Northwestern

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Zach Johnson beats Woods to win Northwestern

Tournament host Tiger Woods was denied a sixth win of the year in sensational fashion when he lost the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in a playoff with Zach Johnson on Sunday at Sherwood Country Club.

Johnson, who had twice finished second to fellow American Woods at this elite limited-field event, sealed victory with a rock-solid par at the 18th, the first extra hole, where Woods lipped out with a five-footer to bogey.

The duo had finished regulation amid high drama and sharp swings of fortune on 13-under 275 Woods parring the last for a two-under 70, and Johnson - who came from four strokes behind with four birdies in the last eight holes - closing with a 68.

“It was a bit too much drama at the end there,” a beaming Johnson told reporters after earning the winner’s check for $1 million. “I feel very fortunate and somewhat lucky to be sitting here as a champion.”

Tied for the lead at 13-under, Johnson appeared to have the title firmly in his grasp in regulation when five-time champion Woods, from the left rough at the 18th, dumped his approach into a greenside bunker.

However, Johnson, perfectly positioned in the fairway, stunningly found water with his second, took a penalty drop and then holed out from 58 yards in the fairway for a par four, with the galleries erupting in deafening celebration.

Woods did well to get up and down from the bunker to take the tournament into a playoff but was unable to repeat the feat from a similar position in the same bunker on the first extra hole.

Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, closed with a 70 to share 3rd place at nine-under with fellow American Matt Kuchar, who piled up eight birdies, a bogey and a double in a 67.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, who also triumphed here in 2010, signed off with a 69 to finish alone in 6th at five-under.

Two ahead of the chasing pack overnight on Saturday after grinding out a 72 in difficult scoring conditions, Woods appeared to be in cruise control as he stretched his lead to three with a two-putt birdie at the par-five second.

He also birdied the par-five fifth, after reaching the green in two, but remained three ahead as his playing partner Johnson also birdied the hole.

As the afternoon sun brightened, Woods then missed makeable birdie putts from 6 feet at the sixth and from 10 feet at the ninth to reach the turn in two-under 34 with a three-stroke cushion. Reuters
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