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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Woods captures elusive Players Championship

Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods crouched and cupped his hands over his brow to study the slope in his 45-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole. Out of the corner of his eye, across the water to a tiny patch of land, he could see his final challenge.

Tiger Woods held off a strong charge by Vijay Singh to win The Players Championship by one stroke.

Associated Press

Vijay Singh rolled in a short birdie putt on the island-green 17th, and Woods' lead was down to one. If there were any more questions about his game or his ability to thrive under pressure, he answered them quickly.

Woods' eagle putt broke three directions before lipping out, and he tapped in for birdie. He found land — just barely — on the 17th green and saved par with a 6-foot putt, then cruised home to a one-stroke victory yesterday in The Players Championship.

"To be able to win a championship like this on an extremely demanding golf course, with probably the best field assembled in all of golf ... it's extremely rewarding," said Woods, who closed with a 5-under 67.

Singh twice challenged Woods over the nine-hole sprint to the finish. He was within one stroke until a triple bogey on the 14th, then made a late charge by using the toe-end of his putter to make a 25-foot eagle on the 16th.

It wasn't enough, nor was his birdie on the 17th.

"One bad swing. That's all it took," said Singh, who had a 68. "Under the gun, you know that you cannot make mistakes."

Woods now goes to Augusta National with a load of confidence as he tries to become the first player to hold all four major championships at the same time.

"I'm headed in the right direction, no doubt about that," Woods said. "Looking at the trophies that I have on my mantle, three are lined up. Put another one on there, it looks pretty good."

So do his chances of winning the Masters, April 5-8.

What better way to prepare than by winning The Players Championship, the only prestigious tournament that had been missing from his credentials.

Woods earned $1,080,000, his fourth $1 million payoff on the PGA Tour, to move to the top of the money list. And after his wild and dramatic victory at Bay Hill last week, he now has won back-to-back starts for the seventh time in his career.

No one in 28 years has ever won The Players Championship and the Masters in the same year, not even close. Not many would bet against Woods.

"I kind of expected everything I saw," said Jerry Kelly, who spent the final 18 holes over two days paired with Woods. "He's the best player in the world. He showed it."

Kelly proved he could play, too, despite losing his two-stroke lead over nine holes Sunday and never threatening to get it back. He closed with a 73, making a double bogey on the last hole that dropped him to fourth place, a $60,000 mistake.

"Good week, good check, so what?" said Kelly, who has never won in 175 starts on tour. "We all want to win."

Bernhard Langer completed a 67 and finished third at 276.

Everything seems to be falling in Woods' direction at just the right time.

That wasn't the case earlier in the year, when the putts turned away from the hole or the approach into the 18th green at Dubai found water for double bogey instead of land for a victory. Still, he never was far from the lead.

"You have to have a little luck on your side, and I think that's what has transpired over the last couple of weeks," Woods said.

As for that so-called slump?

"I've won two tournaments in a row," he said. "I'm sure they'll write about something else."

If he can make it three in a row, Woods will write himself into the history books again.