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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 6, 2006

Woods holds on for repeat victory at Doral

Associated Press

Tiger Woods has won four of his past six tournaments. He is also the first player in 25 years to win consecutive titles at Doral.

LYNNE SLADKY | Associated Press

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MIAMI Tiger Woods knew he had to keep making birdies to stay ahead of the pack, and he delivered the kind of shots that make him so difficult to beat.

Everything changed on the 18th hole yesterday in the Ford Championship.

All he needed was a bogey.

He did that, too.

With a one-shot lead, his ball in the rough and a 9-iron in his hand, Woods watched from 170 yards away as David Toms ran his 60-foot putt to the bottom of the green, then missed the next one to fall two shots behind.

"I just said, 'Anything in the back bleachers, right bleachers, just anything over there to the right and over the water was all I had to do,' " Woods said. "I was just trying to play for 5. I wasn't even trying to make par."

Despite a bogey-bogey finish on the Blue Monster, Woods closed with a 3-under 69 for a one-shot victory over Toms and Colombian rookie Camilo Villegas. It was the 13th time he has successfully defended a title on the PGA Tour, and he became the first player in 25 years to win back-to-back at Doral.

Even more frightening for his peers is that Woods appears to be hitting his stride.

He now has won four of his last six tournaments (two overseas), with the exceptions being a third-round loss in the Match Play Championship and withdrawing from the Nissan Open with the flu when he was 11 shots behind.

"I've put myself there in virtually every event, which is nice," Woods said.

And he keeps getting plenty of help, not that he needs it.

In all three of his victories this year the Buick Invitational, Dubai Desert Classic and Doral his closest challenger made bogey on the last hole.

"I look at it this way I put myself there," Woods said. "If I put myself there enough times, those things are going to happen, as well as other guys are going to make birdies to beat me. That's the way it goes. As long as I'm there each and every time, it's not a bad place to be."

He hit 9-iron so far to the right that it wound up in a bunker, nearly 100 feet from the hole, slightly against the back lip. The ball sat up on a rake mark, making the shot slightly easier, and Woods blasted out to 12 feet.

Woods finished at 20-under 268 and earned $990,000.

It was his 48th career victory, and it enhanced his reputation as the best closer in golf. Woods now is 34-3 when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, and he has never lost in 20 tries when leading by at least two going into the last round.

Toms and Villegas each shot 67 to finish at 269, and they left in a different frame of mind.

Villegas was a darling before this largely Latino gallery in south Florida, and while he challenged Woods briefly on the front nine, his two birdies over the final five holes pushed him up the leaderboard. He was three shots behind playing the 18th, and realized there was little hope of catching Woods.

"We are talking here about the best player in the world," Villegas said. "I played well. I had fun."

Toms made back-to-back birdies to start the back nine and pulled within one shot, then added another birdie on the 16th to get within two shots of the lead. He never looked at a leaderboard, and only figured he was in range by the energy from the gallery.

But that changed on the 18th. He had a decent lie in the rough, but couldn't go after the flag with a 4-iron, so he played smartly to the fat part of the green. An NBC analyst told him that Woods had bogeyed the 17th, and the lead was down to one shot.

"All of a sudden, I've got a putt all the way across the green, big break, and I'm nervous because I'm just trying to two-putt," Toms said. "That's my mistake. But if I had been looking at it all day, then maybe I would have felt that way all the way through the back nine."


European Tour: Britain's Simon Dyson shot a 5-under-par 67 yesterday to win the Indonesia Open (Jakarta) by two strokes for his first European Tour victory. Dyson eagled the seventh hole and completed his four rounds in 20-under-par 268, with Andrew Buckle of Australia the runner-up after a 69.