The winner's 10-under-par 62 ties a record and leaves the third-round leaders at Disney battling each other for second.
By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- He birdied the first three holes, shot 30 on the front nine, then fired his way to a finish that included a fist-pumping birdie on the 72nd hole for a one-stroke victory.
Not this time.
Woods was denied his 10th victory of a record-setting year on Sunday when Duffy Waldorf shot 10-under-par 62 to win the National Car Rental Classic by one stroke over Steve Flesch.
In fact, Waldorf broke Flesch's heart, too. It was Flesch who was paired with Woods over the final two rounds, matching him stroke for stroke.
But Waldorf overcame a six-stroke final-round deficit and didn't know he was leading until after he walked off the 18th green. He captured the fourth PGA Tour title of his career, leaving Woods three strokes behind in third place.
"My emotions right now are pretty close to shock," said Waldorf, who tied John Huston's tournament record for a final-round score set in 1992. "I just started making birdies. But I thought I was too far behind to win. I just tried to fire at every pin."
Waldorf, 38, said he looked at a scoreboard just once all day, after his front-nine 6-under-par 30 on the Magnolia course at Walt Disney World.
At the time, he trailed Flesch. He didn't look again until after he holed a 12-foot birdie putt at the 18th that turned out to be the winning margin.
"That might have been my A-plus game today," Waldorf said. "I played pretty steady all day. I was pretty much on with my irons and all day I had good looks at the hole. Being so far back, I didn't think I had a chance, so I kept firing at the pin."
Waldorf, who completed 72 holes at 262, 26 under par, collected $540,000 from the $3-million purse and vaulted from 83rd on the PGA Tour money list to 45th. In the process, he denied Flesch a shot at his first victory.
Flesch performed admirably all weekend, hanging in against the world's No. 1-ranked player. On Saturday, he said that if he could beat Woods, he'd probably win the tournament. He did beat Woods, but still did not win.
"Unfortunately, I fell one putt short," said Flesch, who had a chance to tie Waldorf with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 18th. "I'll take a lot of confidence from this. If I keep doing this, one of these days I'm going to win."
Flesch, 33, got his 13th top-10 finish of the year and held his own for two days playing with Woods. He earned $324,000 and moved up to 15th on the money list with more than $1.8-million. After an opening-round 63, he shot 65 and 66 for a two-shot advantage going into the final round.
But by playing the front nine in just 1 under par, he allowed a hot Waldorf to get back in the game.
It was the same for Woods, who predicted Saturday that if the two front-runners did not keep forging ahead, they could be caught. And he was right.
"It was just one of those days," said Woods, who had not lost a legitimate final-round battle since March at the Players Championship, where he fell by one stroke to Hal Sutton. "I could never really get anything going. I hung in there and gave myself a chance. It just didn't work out."
Woods hardly seemed despondent. It was a day when he could not get the key putts to drop. He managed to tie Flesch for the lead with birdie at the fifth hole, then made his first and only bogey of the tournament at the sixth while Flesch birdied. He had gone 110 holes without a bogey, dating to the second round of the Canadian Open.
"I gave it everything I had," said Woods, who earned $204,000 to increase his PGA Tour record total to $8,490,821. "I would lose a lot of sleep if I didn't try. I tried as hard as I could. I got the absolute most out of my round swing-wise. If I would have just putted better, I would have won."
The third-place finish was Woods' 13th top-three finish of the year in 18 events. He has nine wins, three seconds and a third and a total of 15 top 10s.
He goes into this week's Tour Championship in Atlanta with another chance to post his 10th victory, the most since Sam Snead won 11 in 1950.
Waldorf is known more for his colorful hats and the thoughtful inscriptions he has written on each of his golf balls. But he has won three tournaments in the past two seasons.
And he managed to come from behind to beat Woods.
"It does mean something when you have the best player in the world in the field," Waldorf said. "That does make it quite a bit more special."