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Harrington holds off Woods for win

©Associated Press

December 9, 2002

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Two holes into the final round Sunday, Padraig Harrington extended his lead to eight strokes over Tiger Woods, then braced for the worst in the Target World Challenge.

"I knew Tiger would come at me," Harrington said. "I heard someone say on No. 13, 'Oh, Tiger is in his head.' I'm thinking, 'He's been in there all day.' "

He had no idea the crucial mistakes would belong to Woods.

In an exciting end to the silly season, Harrington let Woods back into contention with double bogey on the 14th, then watched the world's No. 1 player fall apart with two bad swings that allowed the Irishman to escape with a two-shot victory.

Harrington closed with 1-under 71 and won $1-million, the biggest payoff in his career.

"That's like winning the lottery in Ireland," Harrington said.

His eight-stroke lead was down to three when Harrington hit a 7-iron that bounced into someone's back yard. He had to get up and down from a lie on the side of a hill for double bogey to keep the lead.

Another meltdown followed, but this one belonged to Woods.

From the middle of the fairway on the par-5 16th, Woods pulled a 3-iron some 40 yards left of the green and into the trees, in such a precarious lie that he couldn't take a backswing. He hacked out to the bottom of the hill against a branch, punched it through the green and chipped in for par.

Needing birdie on the final hole for a chance at a playoff, Woods blocked his approach well right of the green for bogey.

That was the end of what would have been his best comeback in the final round when paired with the leader. His best was four strokes last year to Vijay Singh at Sherwood Country Club.

"I had a pretty good shot at it," Woods said. "I had two bad swings, and that cost me."

Harrington finished at 268 and won for the third time in the past two months. He also won the Dunhill Links Championship, the richest event on the European PGA Tour, and the Asian Open two weeks ago, the first tournament of the 2003 European tour schedule.

Harrington more than held his own, though he could have done without the thrills at the end.

"It wouldn't be entertaining without the two of us," Harrington said. "I'm usually the one who is second-best."

Harrington's tee shot on No. 14 landed in a large, rectangular area marked "ground under repair." Harrington declined his free drop, because that would require a sweeping draw around a tree that blocked his flight to the green.

He yanked his approach, and the ball caromed off a hill left of the green, bounced on a cart path and rolled through a 6-inch gap in an iron fence, stopping just short of coming back through the fence and into play.

His next shot also was left, but stayed on the side of the hill. Harrington played a delicate flop shot to 5 feet and double-bogeyed, keeping the lead when Woods missed an 18-foot birdie putt.

Davis Love III (65) finished third at 272. Woods will take four weeks off, returning to the season-opening Mercedes Championship.

PGA TOUR QUALIFYING: Casey Martin moved into position for another chance on tour, shooting 5-under 67 in La Quinta, Calif., climbing 16 spots to a tie for 21st heading into the final round. Martin, who has a circulatory disease in his right leg, was 72nd two rounds ago. Jeff Brehaut shot bogey-free 9-under 63 and shared the lead with Brian Bateman (66) at 17-under 343.

AUSTRALIAN MASTERS: Peter Lonard won the Melbourne event a second time after a three-way playoff with Gavin Coles and Adam Scott. Lonard, the 1997 champion, closed with 6-under 66 to catch Coles (70) and Scott (71) at 9-under 279. Lonard started five shots off the lead held by Scott. Scott failed to make a par putt in the first playoff. Lonard won with par on the third after Coles bogeyed.

VOLVO MASTERS OF ASIA: Kevin Na, last year's top-ranked junior in the United States, shot 6-under 66 to win in Shah Alam, Malaysia, by two strokes. Na turned professional last year and became the youngest winner on the Asian PGA Tour at 19 years, 3 months. He finished 16-under 272. Arjun Singh was second.

VODACOM PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP: Mark McNulty shot 2-under 70 in Cape Town to win his 37th South African Sunshine Tour title. He finished 16-under 272, three ahead of Scott Dunlap (64).

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