Match Play's final pits Woods vs. Love
By Associated Press
Published February 29, 2004
CARLSBAD, Calif. - Davis Love survived an exhausting day of clutch shots and stunning conclusions Saturday, beating Darren Clarke in 21 holes to reach the final of the Match Play Championship and earn another crack at Tiger Woods.
Woods won his 11th straight match, making birdies on his final two holes to put away pesky Stephen Leaney 2 and 1 and reach the final for the third time in five tries. But the day belonged to Love.
First, he watched Phil Mickelson gamble away his chances by going for the par-5 18th green in two with the match tied. Lefty missed by 50 yards and bogeyed, allowing Love to advance.
Then Love rallied from two down with two holes to play against Clarke. After winning the 17th with par, he took the same risk as Mickelson - a 3-wood from 271 yards - and it paid off, setting up a two-putt birdie to force extra holes.
Love won on the third playoff hole, the par-3 16th. He stuffed it into 10 feet and made the putt.
It took six years, but the Match Play Championship finally got the 36-hole final everyone wanted. Woods (No. 1) and Love (No. 3) are the highest seeds to play for the $1.2-million prize.
"It's like Duke in the East," Love said. "You know you're going to play them in the final game."
Woods, who also beat Padraig Harrington, has gone 64 holes without trailing. The last time he faced a deficit was on the 16th hole of his opener against John Rollins.
"An unbelievable talent," Woods said of Love. "You step up there and you know you've got your hands full playing against someone like that."
Woods had his hands full with Leaney, the U.S. Open runnerup. Leaney caught Woods with a 25-foot birdie on the 13th hole. Under such pressure, though, Woods was at his best.
He got up and down for par from 90 yards on the 14th, making a 6-footer. Then he made a 4-foot par putt on the next hole to stay even. His best putt was for birdie, a 12-footer on the 13th after Leaney hit a bunker shot for a conceded par. Woods closed him out on the next hole when Leaney hit into the left bunker and blasted out to 15 feet. Woods hit a 7-iron that landed 4 feet behind the hole and stopped 12 feet away. He made that for the win.
PGA TOUR: Aaron Baddeley shot his way into a share of the third-round lead with second-round leader Heath Slocum at 15-under-par 201 in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, Ariz. Baddeley, who began six back, carded eight birdies and no bogeys for 8-under 64. Slocum bogeyed No. 18 for 70. Defending champ Frank Lickliter (72) was tied with 13 players at 8 under.
WOMEN'S EUROPEAN TOUR: Annika Sorenstam made eight birdies to surge into the lead of her season-opening event. Sorenstam shot 7-under 65 for a one-shot lead through three rounds of the ANZ Ladies Masters at Gold Coast, Australia. Playing her first tournament after taking a two-month break, Sorenstam was 12-under 204, with her only bogey coming on 18. Second-round leader and former Florida State golfer Karen Stupples (70) was second.
NATIONWIDE-AUSTRALASIAN TOUR: Peter Senior was the only player to beat par to take a share of the lead after the third round of the New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch. Senior shot 3-under 69 to move up 37 spots and tie American Bill Lunde (73) at 4-under 212. Second-round leader David Diaz's 78 dropped him to 11th.
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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