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Death, taxes, Tiger
Woods has won 34 of 37 PGA Tour events when holding the 54-hole lead, and he is 20-of-20 when the lead is two strokes or more.
By BOB HARIG
Published March 5, 2006
MIAMI - The dominating days are no more. The blowout victories, the coronation walks ... a thing of the past. Tiger Woods must grind to the finish now.
But one thing remains the same: He wins.
On a day when victory seemed inevitable, Woods made things interesting with a bogey-bogey finish that still was good enough for a one-stroke victory over David Toms and Camilo Villegas in the Ford Championship at Doral.
Some of that may have been by design. Woods watched Toms bogey the 18th hole in front of him, making his approach shot from the right rough that much easier.
"Once he made his mistake, I just said anything in the back bleachers, right bleachers just anything over there to the right and over the water is all I had to do," Woods said. "Just trying to play for 5. I wasn't even trying to make par."
So Woods put it in the back bunker, blasted out and two-putted to defend his Doral title Sunday, winning for the 48th time in his PGA Tour career.
Woods shot 3-under-par 69 on Doral's Blue Monster course to finish at 268, 20 under par, and earn $990,000 from the $5.5-million purse.
Toms and Villegas each shot 67 to finish a stroke back, but it was Toms who came to the 18th hole just one behind Woods.
His drive went into the right rough, and from there he knocked a 4-iron on the green, 60 feet from the cup. Knowing that Woods was behind him in the rough, Toms was just trying to two-putt, but ran the first one by 9 feet. He then missed coming back for bogey that dropped him into a second-place tie.
"I had a lot of fun playing golf out there," said Toms, a 12-time PGA Tour winner who won this year at the Sony Open. "Trying to catch Tiger Woods, getting close, and ultimately in the end, not quite getting there. I enjoyed the challenge."
Throughout the day, it didn't appear to be much of one for Woods. He began the round with a two-stroke lead over Daniel Chopra and Rich Beem and a three-shot advantage over Toms and Villegas.
Whenever anyone got close, Woods would make birdie to keep him at bay.
Although he hit just six of 14 fairways, Woods was cruising on the back nine, having hit every green in regulation. He had a two-shot advantage with his ball in the fairway at the par-4 17th, just 116 yards from the pin. A simple sand wedge shot.
Woods hit what appeared to be a perfect shot, but the ball failed to spin. It hopped over the green and onto the fringe, from where he hit his chip too far.
"It was a terrible shot. I hit it too hard," he said.
Woods missed the putt, and his lead was down to one. But Toms made it easy on him.
"Disappointed, but it's a tough hole anyway," Toms said of the 460-yard finishing hole. "If it was a little driver, 8-iron hole and I was in the middle of the fairway and made a bogey, I'd be obviously pretty ticked off. But it's a hole where the best player in the world just bogeyed it trying to win the tournament."
It was Woods' second victory of the year on the PGA Tour and second title defense, which bodes well for next month's Masters. It was his third victory overall. He has won four of his past five official stroke-play events, having withdrawn from the Nissan Open two weeks ago due to illness.
Woods has won 34 of 37 PGA Tour events when holding the 54-hole lead, and he is 20-of-20 in such situations when the lead is two strokes or more.
But the wins are coming differently. Unlike the days when he won in a rout, he is on a streak where he has been getting some help. In his past three victories on the PGA Tour, Woods has been aided by a final-hole bogey from a competitor: John Daly at the American Express Championship in a playoff and Jose Maria Olazabal at the Buick Invitational in a playoff. Ernie Els also made bogey last month at Dubai in a playoff against Woods. All three are past major-championship winners.
"I look at it this way: I put myself there," Woods said. "If I put myself there enough times, those things are going to happen, as well as other guys are going to make birdies to beat me. That's the way it goes. As long as I'm there each and every time, it's not a bad place to be."