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Woods caps triumph with record showing in host tourney

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The final putt of the year safely
in the hole for par and another victory, Tiger Woods was quickly
reminded what kind of year 2007 turned out to be.

First, he walked over to his six-month-old daughter, dressed in a
red fleece top, for a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the head. Then
came the presentation on the 18th green at Sherwood Country Club,
where Woods collected his eighth trophy of the year.

He became a father for the first time in June. He won his 13th
career major in August at the PGA Championship. He swept all the
major awards to further separate himself from the rest of golf.

The
final piece came Sunday at the Target World Challenge, a seven-shot
victory and a $1.35 million check that goes to his Tiger Woods
Learning Center.

"This year on the golf course, it's been a great year,'' Woods
said. "Off the golf course, it's been the greatest year I've ever
had.''

Woods first understood what he called the "power of family''
when Padraig Harrington made double bogey on the 18th hole at
Carnoustie and was all smiles when he saw his son, Patrick, while
waiting to see if there would be a playoff at the British Open.

There was no such suspense at Sherwood, at least not for long.

Jim Furyk cut a six-shot lead down to two at the turn and was
poised to get even closer on the 10th hole. Woods holed a 12-foot
birdie putt up the slope, and Furyk three-putted for bogey from 4
feet above the hole. It was a stunning two-shot swing, and Woods
soon restored his margin and coasted to victory.

He closed with a 4-under 68 to tie the tournament record at
22-under 266, making him the first player to win consecutive titles
at this year-end tournament for an elite, 16-man field.

Masters champion Zach Johnson won the B-flight and a load of
Christmas cash. Johnson birdied the last hole for a 68 to finish
second, worth $840,000. Furyk, who hit another tee shot in the
water for double bogey on the 15th, shot a 71 to finish third and
won $570,000.

The margin of victory was the largest at this tournament in its
nine-year history, and it was the third time this year that Woods
won a tournament by seven shots or more. And this after taking a
10-week break.

"Doesn't help us, does it?'' Colin Montgomerie said. "If he
took a bloody year off, it would help. Never mind 10 weeks.''

Woods had to sweat, but it was only a drop.

He was six shots clear until a two-shot swing on the seventh
hole, when Furyk made birdie and Woods three-putted for his first
bogey. Furyk birdied the next hole, and Woods dropped a shot on the
ninth when he failed to save par from a bunker.

Suddenly, the lead was two shots going to the back nine, and
Furyk immediately applied pressure with a wedge that he hit with no
spin to about 4 feet above the flag. Woods hit wedge that spun back
12 feet below the cup, and that made all the difference.

Woods calmly made the birdie putt, while Furyk's putt slid by
the cup and rolled 4 feet by. He slapped at the face of his putter,
then missed the par putt for a two-shot swing.

"Jimmy put a ton of heat on me the front nine,'' Woods said.
"The whole tournament switched on the 10th. That was a big
two-shot swing there.''

Woods' lead was back to four, and he kept that margin until the
par-3 15th.

Furyk was three shots behind Saturday until hitting 6-iron into
the water. The final round was no different. Furyk found the water
again for double bogey, and he was back to where he started, six
shots behind.

"You don't start six down to Tiger very often and cut it to
two, so I had a really good opportunity,'' Furyk said. "And I
wasn't able to take advantage of it.''

The only question after that was the margin of victory, and
whether Rory Sabbatini made it safely to Hawaii.

Sabbatini, who was in last place going into the final round,
withdrew from the 16-man field Sunday morning. He told the PGA Tour
he was pulling out for "personal reasons,'' but his agent later
said it was due to shin splints.

A locker-room attendant said Sabbatini told him Saturday night
he was leaving for Maui, and tournament officials were still
looking for his courtesy car late Sunday afternoon.

The South African still received $170,000 for last place, but
perhaps lost some respect along the way.

"I think I could have toughed it out one more round,'' Mark
Calcavecchia said. "I don't think the fans missed him.''

Told that Sabbatini's agent said the reason was shin splints,
Fred Couples wasn't buying.

"Of course, he did,'' Couples said. "And Roger Clemens' agent
said he didn't do steroids.''

Asked if he minded that Sabbatini took off, a cold stare from
Woods said otherwise.

"I'd like to try and get to the bottom of it when I'm done
here, and we'll see what happens,'' he said.

It certainly had no bearing on the tournament. Woods hasn't been
seen at a golf tournament in 10 weeks, and it was as though he
never left. His swing wasn't as polished as it was the first two
rounds, but it was no different from his summer surge when it
counted.

"I took four weeks off and struggled,'' Paul Casey said after
finishing 21 shots behind. "We have a saying in England that he
was Rolls Roycing it. You fire up the car and it purrs perfectly.
I'm very envious.''