CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods always knew the final piece
of his World Golf Championships collection would be the toughest
for him to win.
David Toms made sure of that.
Leading by as many as five holes, Woods recovered from a few
shaky shots and held off a gritty charge by Toms to win the Match
Play Championship, making him the first player to capture all four
of the WGC tournaments.
''This is the hardest to win,'' Woods said. ''Yeah, it's
physically grueling, but I think it's more mentally grueling
because of the ebb and flow of match play. If we had to do this
every week, every pro's playing career would be about 10 years.''
The final match must have felt like a lifetime.
After announcing he would not play the Dubai Desert Classic next
week because it's ''not a safe environment,'' Woods -- who was 4 up
after the morning round -- kept that margin with 11 holes to play.
Two sloppy bogeys and a few clutch birdies by Toms brought high
drama to La Costa.
Woods, who never trailed, finally closed him out when Toms took
four shots to reach the 17th green and Woods saved par from a
bunker, holing a 3-foot putt.
''He never really got all the momentum,'' Woods said after a
2-and-1 victory. ''He got a lot of it, but not all of it.''
Woods won for the 36th time on the PGA Tour and earned
$1,050,000. Since returning from his two-month break for knee
surgery, he has won twice and tied for fifth in three tournaments.
And he's passing on an appearance fee worth more than $2 million
to play in Dubai.
Toms earned $600,000. Despite losing, he enhanced his reputation
as a player who squeezes everything out of his game until the very
''I'm not going to quit,'' Toms said. ''That's not my nature.
We're on national TV and I wanted to last a long time. I didn't
want to be embarrassed. When he got 5 up, I just had to dig deep
and not give in.''
Woods was 5 up after 19 holes and had an 8-foot birdie putt.
Toms rolled in a 35-footer to win the hole and seize momentum,
which got even stronger when Woods made back-to-back bogeys on the
26th and 27th holes.
Ultimately, it was too large a deficit to overcome for Toms,
especially against the best player in the world who again proved to
be a master at match play.
He won three straight U.S. Junior Amateur titles and three
straight U.S. Amateurs, but was 0-4 in match-play tournaments as a
That changed during a dominant week at La Costa, where he made
only five bogeys on a tough course and played only 112 holes, the
fewest of any winner in the five-year history of the Accenture
Match Play Championship.
The World Golf Championships began in 1999, and Woods has won
them all -- three times the NEC Invitational, twice the American
Express and the 2000 World Cup with David Duval.
The missing piece was the format he loves most.
Woods showed that on the final hole. Clinging to a 1-up lead, he
watched Toms hit his drive into the rough behind some trees. Woods,
who had hit driver on the 483-yard hole all week, reached for the
3-wood and split the middle.
''Whatever it took to get the ball in play to put pressure back
on him,'' Woods said. ''I was hot at myself for hitting that 7-iron
into the bunker. But I had a great lie -- just get it below the hole
so I had an uphill putt -- and I was able to do that.''
Toms' approach went left into rough so deep he could barely
identify his ball. He hacked out short of the green, and his chip
for par turned away.
''I still thought I could chip it in,'' Toms said. ''You don't
give in until you're done.''
Adam Scott, who pushed Woods to 19 holes in the semifinals, was
6 up through eight holes in the 18-hole consolation match against
Peter Lonard. Scott didn't make another birdie until the 18th,
winning 1 up.
Scott earned $480,000, the largest check of his career. Lonard
Toms trailed by as many as five holes, but never panicked. He
has more grit than glitz, and hung around just long enough for
Woods to start making a few mistakes.
Woods, so relentless with his power and accuracy in the morning
round, made only two bogeys in his first 102 holes at La Costa
before making them back-to-back on Nos. 8 and 9 in the afternoon
Suddenly, his lead was only 2 up. Toms twice cut that in half,
holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole to give himself a
Still, the match was really decided over the first 18 holes when
Woods applied relentless pressure off the tee with power and
''I got down too far to come back,'' Toms said.
Woods was 4 up after the morning round, a margin that seemed
even larger considering the limited opportunities Toms had to win a
His remarks from the PGA Championship last year seemed
''Tell me this: If we're all on our games and they're hitting
three less clubs than me, who's got the better chance?'' Toms said
at Hazeltine after playing the first round with Woods and Ernie
That's exactly how it shaped up at La Costa.
Woods belted his drives long and straight, not missing a fairway
until the 11th hole. That gave him shorter irons into the greens,
and he had 16 birdie putts in the morning.
It looked like it might be the biggest rout in the finals of any
match-play event when Woods hit his approach into 4 feet on the
opening hole of the afternoon for birdie to go 5 up, then followed
with a shot into 8 feet on the par-3 second.
Toms showed no quit.
He holed a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 2 and won the hole when
Woods missed his birdie, a key moment in the match.
Woods was on the verge of going 6 up, and momentum suddenly
shifted to Toms. On the next hole, Toms made a 10-foot birdie putt
and Woods three-putted for par from 40 feet, missing his birdie
attempt from 5 feet.
Even so, this was Woods' match to lose. He hit into 3 feet for
birdie on No. 6, exchanged pars on the next hole and was 4 up with
11 holes to play.
Toms didn't go away. He simply ran out of holes.