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Woods takes advantage of easy course, weak field to capture Buick Open

GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Tiger Woods won the Buick Open for a third time and claimed his 69th PGA Tour victory.

Ho hum.

Not quite.

Woods shot a 3-under-par 69 and coasted to a three-shot victory with a 20-under 268 total at Warwick Hills, which hosted its first Buick Open in 1958 and might have staged its final one Sunday.

“I’ve played all around the world, and I’ve never seen a day like this,” said Woods, also the 2002 and 2006 winner at Warwick Hills. “This event has always been special, but (Sunday) was something else.”

He acknowledged thinking about his walk up 18 at Warwick Hills being his last, leading to him throwing his ball back down the fairway to fans. He also tossed a ball into the gallery at 17.

“I never do that, but (Sunday) was different,” Woods said. “We aren’t coming back here, and I wanted to thank all these people.”

GolfWeek Magazine reported on its Web site that General Motors Co. would end the PGA Tour’s longest partnership.An announcement was expected once the tournament ended.

GolfWeek also reported The Greenbrier in West Virginia is waiting for the PGA Tour to confirm it will replace the Buick Open in 2010.

“Hopefully, we’ll get back to this region soon,” Woods said.

Early and often at Warwick Hills, from the pro-am when he played with rocker Bob Seger through Sunday, Woods was thanked by fans who appreciated his appearance.

“I’ve never played in front of fans like this,” Woods said. And, they haven’t seen a player quite like Woods.

He improved to 36-1 when he has the outright lead after 54 holes. Woods has four wins this season — twice as many as anyone else on the PGA Tour — in just 11 starts since returning from knee surgery.

Roland Thatcher (64), Greg Chalmers (68) and John Senden (70) tied for second.

“I might go take a picture of the scoreboard since I’m tied with Tiger, but I’m not going to worry about getting ready for a playoff,” Thatcher said when he ended his round soon after Woods was starting his. “I’m sure he’s going to make my day a moot point.”

Indeed he did.

Woods broke the tie with Thatcher with a 21-footer at No. 4, then two-putted from 43 feet to birdie the par-5 seventh. After saving par from the trees on 10 and water on 13, he picked up his final birdie with a two-putt on the par-5 16th.

He moved into first place in the FedEx Cup standings and padded his lead on the money list with another $918,000 after tying Vijay Singh’s record of three Buick Open titles.

With the 69 wins, he trails just Jack Nicklaus (73) and Sam Snead (82).

Woods reached victory No. 69 at the age 33 years, 7 seven months — almost seven years quicker than Nicklaus and eight years sooner than Snead.Dating to the 2006 British Open, Woods has won 21 of 39 starts.

Woods, playing for the first time since missing the cut at the British Open, got off to a brutal start at the Buick Open.

He shot a 71 in the first round and said it was probably the worst putting performance of his career, leading to him skipping his post-round practice session because he was so mad.

It only added to his legacy because he went from a tie for 95th to a victory, the largest jump he’s made from the first round in a tournament he ended up winning.

Woods roared back into contention with the best five-hole start of his career — beginning 6 under in the second round — en route to a 9-under 63 for his best score in relation to par in four years.

The three-shot victory was his most lopsided since winning the 2008 Buick Invitational by eight.

He took advantage of the easy course and weak field. The six players who finished within five shots of Woods have a combined four titles.

“He’s just laughing at all of us,” Letzig said. “I wish he’d stop coming to the tournaments I’m coming to. Seriously, though, I love it.”

Woods, whose previous three wins this year were each by one shot, spent much of Sunday with a two-shot cushion before he took a three-stroke lead with the birdie at No. 16.

His final round included three birdies and no bogeys and won without trailing in the final round for the first time since Bay Hill in 2008.

Competition and courses are about to get much tougher. Woods will play at the Bridgestone Invitational next before going to Hazeltine for the PGA Championship, his final chance to win a major this year.

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