Tiger takes Doral for second straight year

3/6/2006 - Golf Tiger Woods

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 Sunday in the Ford
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 on
another tropical day at the Blue Monster.
But that changed on the 18th, which always has been a tough hole
for him. 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.
"I wasn't even nervous all day because I'm trying to catch the
guy," Toms said. "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. 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."
Toms didn't beat himself up over a bogey on the 18th, one of the
toughest closing holes on the PGA Tour that played to an average of
4.5 shots in the final round.
He was more frustrated with a 70 in the third round, which left
him three shots behind Woods.
"When you play against Tiger, you can't slip up," Toms said.
"You just have to play solid every day."
Woods ended a peculiar streak; his last four victories had been
in playoffs. It didn't look as though this one would be even close
to extra holes the way he played the back nine.
When the challenge arrived, Woods found an extra gear.
"Once I got to the 11th green, I saw D.T. had made birdie at 10
and 11 and drew within one," Woods said. "I told Steve (Williams)
that I needed to bury this putt and see if we can get some kind of
Then came the 603-yard 12th, which Woods is turning into a
highlight show. He reached it in two for the second straight year,
a powerful 3-wood from the first cut of rough that splashed out of
the bunker and to the lower shelf of the green, setting up a
two-putt birdie.
That restored his lead to three shots, and the only drama at the
end was self-inflicted. Woods was leading by two and had a wedge
from 116 yards in the 17th fairway. He hit that over the green, hit
a weak chip-and-putt to make bogey, then waited to see how Toms
would force his hand.
Woods played his best golf when challenged, and his worst golf
when it didn't matter.
The result was another victory on the Blue Monster, the first
player since Raymond Floyd (1980-81) to win consecutive years. This
tournament will be a World Golf Championship next year, which might
make Woods even tougher to beat. He already has won 10 of those.

Phil Mickelson hit into the water on the eighth and ninth
holes and wound up with a 73 to tie for 12th. ... Tiger Woods'
caddie, Steve Williams, recently took possession of a Ford GT that
came with Woods' victory last year. This time, he opted for the
copper Mustang. Asked if his wife had any say over who got the car,
Woods said, "No, she has others." ... Jeff Sluman matched the
best round of the day at 66 and moved up 27 spots into a tie for
seventh. ... Among those in the gallery Sunday was seven-time LPGA
winner Michelle McGann, who was watching Rich Beem. They both work
with Dr. Michael Larden.