Tiger Woods beaten by Zach Johnson in California

Zach Johnson with the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge trophy. Picture: AP
Zach Johnson with the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge trophy. Picture: AP
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ZACH Johnson saw off Tiger Woods in a play-off to complete a remarkable comeback and claim the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge title from under the nose of its host.

Johnson found himself four shots back after 10 holes as Woods appeared to be cruising to victory in his tournament at the Sherwood Country Club.

But he staged a stirring comeback on the way home as Woods stagnated, sinking four birdies and chipping in from the drop zone on the 18th to take the contest into a play-off with a four-under round of 68, before taking the title on the first extra hole.

That scenario looked a long way off after 10 holes.

Woods led by two from Johnson overnight and he moved a further shot clear of his fellow American after reaching the turn in 34 following birdies on the par-five second and fifth holes.

That left Woods on 13 under for the tournament while Johnson was 10 under after nine having only picked up the one birdie on the fifth.

When Johnson bogeyed the 10th to go four behind, his prospects looked bleak, but he birdied the 11th and 12th, and when Woods dropped a shot at 14 the deficit was cut to just one.

Both players birdied 16, then when Johnson picked up a shot on the next it was all square at 13 under.

Johnson was in trouble on the 18th after finding the water, but holed spectacularly from the drop zone to save par, then parred the first play-off hole - as Woods found the bunker and missed a four-foot putt - to take the title.

Johnson was left to reflect on his striking effort at the 18th.

“[It] was a little bit too dramatic for me,” he said. “I’m lucky it went in.”

Woods was magnanimous in defeat, saying: “I had a two-shot lead starting out the day. Zach, I don’t know how the last three iron shots didn’t go in the hole. It was pretty impressive on 16, 17, and 18.

“He got me.”

In third place, four shots behind the leading pair on nine under, were Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, who had a best-of-the-day five-under-par 67.

Webb Simpson was fifth, with 2012 champion Graeme McDowell sixth on five under and Ian Poulter seventh on three under.

Rory McIlroy had a 70 for his second straight under-par round to finish level for the tournament.