AKRON, Ohio (AP) – Tiger Woods overcame some shaky putting Sunday by making the one that mattered.

Woods rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt that broke sharply into the right side of the cup, then escaped with par from the trees on the 18th hole for a 1-under 71 and a one-shot victory over Chris DiMarco in the NEC Invitational.

Woods made it seven consecutive years with at least one World Golf Championship title since the series began in 1999, and he has won nine of the 18 events he has played.

Despite his dominance at Firestone – four victories in six years – this one required the most work.

Woods missed five putts inside 8 feet and trailed Kenny Perry by two shots when they made the turn. Even the birdie putt that finally gave him the lead required an approach from 189 yards over the water. It wasn’t over until he pitched through the trees and onto the 18th green for a two-putt par from 20 feet.

He missed five putts inside 8 feet and was two shots behind Kenny Perry after nine holes. His birdie putt on the 16th hole came after he hit into the trees and had to pitch out to 189 yards away, with water guarding the flag. And he avoided a playoff by pitching low through the branches to 20 feet on the final hole.

“Let’s just say I’ve had better days,” Woods said with a smile when asked about his putting.

He finished at 6-under 274 and earned $1.3 million for his fifth victory of the year, one more than Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, enough to end any debate about PGA Tour player of the year.

DiMarco, who lost to Woods in a playoff at the Masters, thought he might get another shot at him when he shot a 68 to finish at 275. Instead, he was forced to look back at a bogey on the 17th when he went after the flag and wound up in deep grass behind the green.

Playing four groups ahead of Woods, he had a 20-foot birdie on the 18th that grazed the edge of the cup.

Paul McGinely, one of four players who had at least a share of the lead, fell out of contention with a bogey on the 17th and shot 72 to tie for third with Singh (67) and Ryan Palmer (69).

Perry bogeyed five of six holes and wound up tied for sixth after a 74.


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