Woods rallies past Els, stays perfect in 2006
By STEPHEN WADE
By STEPHEN WADE
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates For Tiger Woods, one close shave deserved another. Now he's 2 for 2 for the year.
Woods won the Dubai Desert Classic over Ernie Els yesterday, forcing a playoff against the defending champion with birdies on the last two holes of regulation.
On the first playoff hole, the par-5 18th, Woods went just over the green with his second shot. Els put his drive into a grove of palm trees, and then hit his second shot into the water protecting the green. Els missed a 20-foot par putt, leaving Woods to two-putt for par from 6 feet to win.
"Somehow I got lucky," Woods said. "Today it was very fortunate because I didn't really have it, but the other guys didn't run away, either."
Woods, who shaved the goatee he'd been wearing before rallying Saturday to grab a share of the lead, won his first tournament of the year last weekend in the Buick Invitational in San Diego, also in a playoff.
It was his first event after a six-week break, the longest of his career.
Yesterday's victory was Woods' 57th worldwide 47 of them on the U.S. PGA Tour. It was also the 10th country in which he has won an official tournament. Along with titles in the United States and the United Arab Emirates, he has won in Thailand, Germany, Spain, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Malaysia.
The long vacation hasn't hurt, and neither did a 20-hour flight across 12 time zones to reach the Middle East.
This was Woods' third attempt to win on this desert course on the Arabian peninsula. Five years ago, he led after the third round but lost on the 72nd hole to Dane Thomas Bjorn, dumping a shot into the water hazard on 18. Two years ago, he watched Florida neighbor Mark O'Meara win.
Els and Woods were tied at 19-under 269 after regulation. Richard Green shot a 68 to finish 18 under and Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and Anders Hansen (71) came in at 17-under 271. Retief Goosen shot 71 for a 16-under 272.
Els, a three-time champion in Dubai, shot a closing 5-under 67. Woods, who was tied for the lead with Anders Hansen after three rounds, closed with a 69 to go with rounds of 67-66-67.
"I cannot complain," said Els, who is coming back from knee surgery last year. "After all the hassle I had with the leg to come back ... and to almost win is fine."
Woods received $400,000 for winning the $2.4 million event, where he received a $3 million appearance fee.
Woods is nearly impossible to beat in playoffs. He's 13-1 worldwide in official events.
TIGER WOODS' PLAYOFF RECORD
The playoff record of Tiger Woods, who is 13-1 in worldwide official events:
1996 Las Vegas Invitational def. Davis Love III, first hole
1997 Mercedes Championships def. Tom Lehman, first hole
1998 JOHNNIE WALKER DEF. ERNIE ELS, SECOND HOLE
1998 NISSAN OPEN LOST TO BILLY MAYFAIR, FIRST HOLE
1999 WGC-American Express def. Miguel Angel Jimenez, first hole
2000 Mercedes Championships def. Ernie Els, second hole
2000 PGA Championship def. Bob May, three holes (total score)
2001 WGC-NEC Invitational def. Jim Furyk, seventh hole
2002 Deutsche Bank def. Colin Montgomerie, third hole
2005 MASTERS DEF. CHRIS DIMARCO, FIRST HOLE
2005 WGC-American Express def. John Daly, second hole
2005 DUNLOP PHOENIX DEF. KANAME YOKOO, FOURTH HOLE
2006 Buick Invitational def. Jose Maria Olazabal and Nathan Green, second hole
2006 Dubai Classic def. Ernie Els, first hole