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Woods Does Match Shtick

Dominant in the format as usual, he beats Love for his second straight victory in Match Play Championship and his 40th PGA Tour title.

March 01, 2004|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

CARLSBAD — Once again, match play was child's play for Tiger Woods, who won the Accenture Match Play Championship for the second year in a row and blew out the candles on his 40th PGA Tour victory.

Only seven players have won more than Woods, but none have made more money, a bankroll that Woods added to Sunday when he carted off $1.2 million as a result of his 3-and-2 victory over Davis Love III at La Costa.

It was only a matter of time until it happened, but Woods also officially launched himself into exclusive new territory, golf's 40-40 club: $40 million (he has won $41.5 million) and now 40 victories.

In fact, it's so exclusive that Woods is its only member.

"Nice club," he said.

Nice timing. Woods is the fastest player to reach 40 victories -- in only 149 events -- breaking Jack Nicklaus' record of 221 tournaments.

What's more, Woods' winner's check in the $7-million tournament moved him from 18th to third on the 2004 money list with $1.731 million, behind only Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, and only $6,100 behind Mickelson.

Woods ended the match on the 34th hole when he calmly rolled in a three-foot putt for par. Love, who held a 1-up lead after the first 18 holes, won none of the final 17. He blamed not only his putting, but also his failure to take greater advantage of Woods' problems finding the fairway in the morning's 18-hole session.

"Obviously, at the turn, he went out there and figured out how to hit fairways," Love said.

What Woods figured out after hitting a few balls on the range during the break was that his body wasn't in proper alignment during his swing. He said he went back to basics in a little talk with himself on the range.

"Get your posture right, grip right, and let's just hit a few shots and see what happens," he said. "Let's get everything lined up and who cares where the ball goes on the range. Let's get comfortable first. I started seeing some results. I could actually put the club in the right position on the way down. All of a sudden, my speed came back."

And just like that, Woods took off.

He started the 19th hole with a 12-foot, par-saving putt, then squared the match when Love bogeyed the next hole, the par-three No. 2. Love said later that a heckler had been yelling at him and at the par-three fifth, the 23rd hole. Love stopped play, confronted the fan and had him removed from the course. The fan, who yelled "No Love" when Love was walking to his ball on the tee, clearly unnerved Love, who said later that he had no choice but to stop playing and correct the situation.

"You don't have to like me, you don't have to pull for me, but respect me to play the game," Love said.

Two holes later, Woods took his first lead when he made a 12-foot putt for birdie, and he never looked back. Woods went 2 up after 26 holes when he birdied the par-five eighth, knocking an eight-iron to four feet and rolling in the putt.

The lead went to 3 up after 27 holes when Love drove into the rough and Woods two-putted from 11 feet for par, making the second one from four feet.

Love, who could console himself with the $700,000 prize for second, had only one chance the rest of the way to get closer, but he left his eight-foot putt short at the 31st hole and failed to cash in. It was his eighth missed putt inside 10 feet.

Woods was having few such problems. He needed only 45 putts in 34 holes and didn't have a single three-putt.

"He's tough to beat once he gets ahead," said Love, who had trouble finding the pace of the greens after they were mowed between rounds and had only one birdie on a total of six par-five holes.

In this match-play event, Woods has proven difficult to beat. He is 20-3, has won it back-to-back and won 12 straight matches. It was his eighth victory in World Golf Championship events, which began in 1999. Woods has won eight of the 14 he has played and four of the last five.

And today marks the beginning of Woods' 238th week at No. 1 in the rankings.

When he allowed himself a moment to reflect on his week, Woods was proud that he had come through even when he had been inconsistent from day to day. He said if this had been a stroke-play event, he would not have won.

But match play is different, as Woods continued to assert every time he was asked. And if anything really can happen in match play, then a victory by Woods should be regarded as more of a regular occurrence than anything out of the ordinary.

Only a month ago, when Singh won at Pebble Beach and set up a three-tournament comparison with Woods at Torrey Pines, Riviera and this week, many regarded it as a chance to see if Singh had closed the gap on Woods.

At Torrey Pines, Woods tied for 10th and Singh missed the cut. At Riviera, Woods tied for seventh and Singh tied for 24th. This week, Woods won and Singh lost in the second round.

Woods was asked if he thought he had just made some kind of statement.

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