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Woods Stays in Matchup Zone to End

World's No. 1 player completes 112-hole test by beating Toms, 2 and 1, to win Match Play Championship and $1.05 million.

March 03, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

CARLSBAD, Calif. — If there was any question about it, here is your reminder: Tiger's at the top. Tiger Woods delivered another stinging example of why he's the best player in the world Sunday, working his way over La Costa's tricky greens and past a stubborn David Toms to win the $6-million Accenture Match Play Championship, his second tournament victory in three weeks.

He was not surprised.

"I expect to go out there and win every tournament I play in, because that's my level of expectations," Woods said. "If I show up at a tournament, that's my goal. And I've accomplished my goal two out of three weeks."

Woods scored a hard-earned, 2-and-1 victory over Toms on the 35th hole of a scheduled 36-hole final that signaled the end of a 112-hole match-play endurance test and showed conclusively that it's still Tiger's world.

Better get used to it. Woods has been back for three tournaments after taking two months off for knee surgery and you'd have to say he's sort of made an impact.

He won at Torrey Pines, he was fifth at Riviera and now he's won again.

How's that for an opening act?

"When he plays good, he wins," Toms said. "We all know that."

The victory was Woods' 36th in seven years as a pro, tying him with Lloyd Mangrum for 11th place all-time, and moved him past $35 million in prize money.

This was the 14th World Golf Championship event and Woods has won seven of them. His victory Sunday was worth $1,050,000.

And after spotting Ernie Els a $1.8-million lead in the money race after the first two weeks, and watching Mike Weir bank $2,082,000 in five weeks, Woods is close enough that Weir can feel Tiger's breath on the back of his neck in the teller line -- only $51,000 behind at $2,031,000.

The last year Woods won twice on the West Coast was 2000, when he won nine times, including the U.S Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

"You can expect me to keep trying to get better," he said. "If my year turns out to be like 2000, I'd take that."

They had beefed up La Costa, adding 260 yards, growing the rough and firming the greens, providing a layout that put on display the best part of the game Woods had developed. The course and conditions required Woods to hit shorter irons than he is accustomed to, to keep the ball from spinning off the greens.

Toms remained impressed about the maturity of Woods' game.

"He says he feels better now than last year and he's swinging as good as I've ever seen him," Toms said. "I'm just glad he doesn't play 25 tournaments."

Woods looked like a lock after the morning round, during which he built a 4-up lead after 18 holes.

"I had to dig deep not to give in," said Toms, who made $600,000. "I'm not going to quit. That's not my nature. We're on national television and I wanted it to take a long time. I don't want to get embarrassed on national TV."

Toms began the day with a three-putt bogey at the first hole, Woods birdied the par-five No. 3 and the tone was set. At No. 5, Toms had another three-putt bogey. Woods had only one more birdie the rest of the morning round and just played consistently, parring eight of the nine holes on the back.

Woods bogeyed the ninth in the morning, but it was only his second bogey of the 95 holes he had played to that point. Toms wasn't at his best, with five bogeys in the morning.

"If I had made a few more putts, I had a chance to blow it wide open," Woods said.

For Woods, it wasn't a spectacular beginning to the day -- two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars -- but it was looking even better when he sank a six-foot putt to go 5 up after one hole in the afternoon.

That was the signal for Toms to turn it on. Woods missed a six-footer for birdie at the next hole, right after Toms drained a 29-footer for birdie. That left Woods 4 up. Toms also won the next hole, the 21st of the day, and by the time they made the turn in the afternoon, Woods' margin was only two holes.

At the ninth, Woods missed the green and bogeyed.

Toms got even closer when he birdied the 11th, but that's the hole where Woods figured out he wasn't squaring his shoulders when he putted. So when he had the chance to put the correction to use at the 13th, the 31st hole of a long and grueling day, he did.

Woods hit a nine-iron from 144 yards and left the ball 13 feet below the hole. He rolled it in, took a 2-up lead and regained momentum.

The match ended at No. 17, a 483-yard par four. Toms' drive sailed right and he took a drop from the cart path.

Woods saw that Toms was in trouble, so he hit a three-wood onto the fairway, 170 yards from the pin. Woods, knowing all he probably would need to win was a simple, two-putt par, sent his seven-iron too far and put the ball in a bunker at the back of the hole.

But Toms didn't have much of a chance.

He slashed out of the rough and missed the green, the ball landing in long grass at the left rear of the green, 40 feet from the pin. He hacked out to the fringe and chipped from there, running the ball past the hole.

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