The fifth set was tied at 14 when he was on the putting green. When he arrived at the practice range, he heard that Federer finally broke the serve of Andy Roddick to win 16-14, capturing a record 15th title in Grand Slam events, one more than Woods has majors.
He paused to take his cell phone from his golf bag and send Federer a text message: 'Great job. Now its my turn.
He smiled as a room full of reporters laughed. Woods knew what they were thinking and quickly corrected them.
Not by 15, he said. I meant win today.
He took care of that Sunday at Congressional, although it wasnt quite as dramatic. Tied going into the final round ' a position from which Woods has not lost in nearly five years ' he surged past Anthony Kim with three birdies in a five-hole stretch, only to see that Hunter Mahan had joined Woods atop the leaderboard by tying the course record with a 62.
He saved par on the next two holes, from a tough spot in the bunker and with a 6-foot putt to atone for a pedestrian chip, then turned another poor chip into a winner when he holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole.
Woods wound up with a 3-under 67 and a one-shot victory, his third this season in nine starts.
It would seem as though the timing was impeccable. What better way to go into a major than by winning?
But that hasnt helped him lately. Woods also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his final start before the Masters, then struggled with his swing and finished four shots behind. Then came a victory at the Memorial, where he rarely missed a fairway, only to go to the U.S. Open without being able to make a putt.
Asked if that had crossed his mind, Woods smiled.
It has now, he said. Hopefully, I can play like I did this week and continue to build next week. Our practice sessions, hopefully well do some good work and continue to build on what were doing right now.
The British Open is at Turnberry, a links course Woods has never seen. That shouldnt be an issue, he had never been to Royal Liverpool in 2006 until dismantling the course to win by two at 18-under 270.
He made it clear last week, however, that he needs all facets of his game to be working ' driving, iron play, chipping and putting ' to win a major because the Grand Slam events demand so much.
It looked plenty good to Kim.
The 24-year-old from California, who used Woods as his role model growing up and practiced beating him with 10-foot putts, went from a one-shot lead to a three-shot deficit in a matter of four holes, and never caught up. It was their first time playing together, and Kim still hasnt finished higher than Woods in any event.
I have seen him dissect a golf course, Kim said. Hes done it to perfection in many tournaments. Now I just need to go and learn. Ill learn a lot from this event.
Mahans 62 tied the course record that Kim had set on Thursday, although this one came in the final round when the greens were more firm and the flags were tucked. It was four shots better than anyone else Sunday.
It still wasnt enough, and Mahan figured that would be the case considering Woods had six holes remaining.
He knows how to play this game better than anybody, Mahan said.
The left knee that caused Woods to miss the British Open and the second half of last year is no longer an issue. Woods said thats one reason he is driving the ball so well, which was evident at Congressional.
Swing coach Hank Haney will travel to Orlando, Fla., this week to work with Woods. They wont be able to mimic links conditions, how the ball reacts not only in crosswinds, but when it hits the ground.
Just making sure that you can flight your ball and making sure you can maneuver it both ways efficiently, Woods said of his practice sessions. Because over there, you dont know what kind of weather youre going to get.
A victory would give him 15 majors, although he is pursuing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors, not Federer and his 15.
Our playing career is a little bit longer than theirs, Woods said. So Ive got one good thing there.
Sunday was the second time this year that Woods and Federer have won on the same day. He was a few minutes late getting to the practice range at the Memorial last month because he wanted to see the end of the French Open, which Federer won to complete the Grand Slam. More text messages followed, and Woods rallied from five shots behind.
Theres one big difference between their victories, however.
He won the French and I won Memorial, so it was kind of, Lets do it on the same day. Lets do it again today, Woods said. His are a hell of a lot bigger than mine, though. He won two Slams, and I won two tour events. Hopefully, I can get the majors now.