Tiger Woods hits a shot during the final round of the AT&T National on July 1, 2012. (US PRESSWIRE)
BETHESDA, Md. (USA TODAY) - Tiger Woods finally passed Jack Nicklaus. No, not for the most career victories in major championships, but for the second most career PGA Tour wins.
Woods won for the 74th time as he held off Bo Van Pelt on the back nine of the Blue Course at scorching Congressional Country Club to win the AT&T National on Sunday.Woods now only trails Sam Snead, who had 82 career victories.
With a final-round, 2-under-par 69, Woods beat Van Pelt by two shots and became the first to win three times on the PGA Tour this season. He also moves to the top of the money list. It is the 12th season in which Woods has won at least three times.
Woods, who went 41 holes without a bogey until he made 6 on the par-5 16th, took the outright lead by sinking a 6-foot par putt on the 17th as Van Pelt, who was trying to win for the second time in 310 starts on the Tour, made bogey. Woods made par on the 18th to finish at 8 under.
Van Pelt, who finished with bogeys on his last three holes, shot 71.
The two were at least three shots ahead of the rest of the field on the back nine. Adam Scott (67) finished third at 5 under.
Woods remained at No. 4 in the world golf rankings behind No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood. But Van Pelt, after playing the final 36 holes with Woods, said he knows who No. 1 is.
"You know, no offense to any of those other guys, but I think (Woods) is the only guy to win three tournaments on Tour this year, right?" Van Pelt said. "On three different golf courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he's playing the best golf in the world right now."
Woods next plays this week in the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia. After an off week, he will resume his march toward Nicklaus' major record on July 19 in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
Woods' victory ends a bizarre weekend at the AT&T National. Because of a massive storm that thundered across the area on Friday night, the course was closed to spectators for the third round Saturday. PGA Tour officials were concerned about safety because of broken and downed tree limbs throughout the course.
Officials cleaned up the course outside the ropes in time for play on Saturday, and Woods and the field played in front of a handful of media, security and essential volunteers.
Woods shot a third-round 67 to get within a shot of the lead on Saturday in front of tens of people, rather than the usual thousands.
On Sunday, the thousands were back, and they were loud.