Three feet separate Woods from Daly

Associated Press
Published October 10, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO - Tiger Woods and John Daly made the PGA Tour feel like a rock concert Sunday, the delirium reaching such decibels that Woods felt his ear drums pounding as golf's two biggest sluggers headed for a sudden-death playoff at Harding Park, the municipal course with a $16-million makeover.

It was a titanic struggle that ended with a whimper.

Despite their 350-yard tee shots that soared majestically against the blue sky over Lake Merced, the American Express Championship came down to a putt that would have been a gimme on most municipal courses.

Daly, who seconds earlier had a 15-foot birdie putt to win, missed a 3-footer for par on the second extra hole to hand Woods his 10th title in the World Golf Championships.

"That's not how you're supposed to win a golf tournament," Woods said. "We're in a playoff, we're battling, and J.D. played beautifully all week. It shouldn't end like that."

Woods, he of the massive fist pumps and megawatt smile, bowed his head and drew his hand over his right eye as if he had just lost the tournament.

Daly walked off the 16th green and handed his putter, which betrayed him over the closing holes, to Frank Lopez, one of thousands of faces in the gallery who hated to see this end.

"I really thought I was going to make the (birdie) putt," Daly said. "You know, what do you do? I know Tiger didn't want to win that way, and I certainly didn't want to lose that way."

Woods made up a two-shot deficit over the final three holes to force a playoff and closed with 3-under 67. He won the American Express Championship for the fourth time in six starts, and is 10-for-19 in the World Golf Championships that count toward official money.

It was his sixth victory of the year, and the third time golf's best closer had to rally in the final round. Considering he had a swing he couldn't trust, and a lingering rib injury that required treatment all tournament, this might have been as impressive as any.

"I didn't really have my best stuff this week, but I still hung in there with my mind and putted beautifully, and hit shots when I really had to," Woods said.

Daly closed with 69, three-putting from 30 feet on the 17th to crack open the door for Woods.

He had two chances to win the tournament - a 16-foot birdie putt on the 18th in regulation that he left short, then the birdie putt on No. 16 - the second playoff hole - that he three-putted for bogey.

"It's discouraging to lose that way," Daly said. "To fight like I did - I really didn't hit the ball that great today - just to give myself an opportunity to win, it's disappointing. I played my heart out."

Woods and Daly shot 10-under 270, and only 24 of the 71 players who started the event finished under par.

LPGA: Chile's Nicole Perrot earned her first LPGA Tour victory, rallying from a two-shot deficit. The 21-year-old Perrot, who led by three Saturday in Auburn, Calif., offset three bogeys on the front nine with three birdies on the back for par 71. She finished at 14-under 270, one shot ahead of South Korea's Hee-Won Han (69). Dawn Coe-Jones of Tampa shot 73-278 and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome shot 71-285.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Jay Haas rallied with 7-under 65 for his first senior victory, a two-stroke win at the Greater Hickory Classic in Conover, N.C. The 51-year-old Haas, who splits time between the PGA Tour and the 50-and-over tour, finished with a tournament-record 16-under 200, beating the 14 under set last year by Doug Tewell. The victory came in Haas' 10th Champions event and ended a 302-event winless streak in tour-sanctioned tournaments that stretched 11 years, 11 months, 23 days. Second-round leader Dana Quigley finished second after 70.

EUROPEAN PGA: John Bickerton won the Abama Open de Canarias in Tenerife, Canary Islands, shooting 3-under 68 to finish at 10-under 274 and beat Stuart Little and Michael Kirk by five strokes.