After nailing Target, Woods aims for future

Posted: Monday, December 13, 2004

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Tiger Woods won his final tournament of a difficult year.

It looks as if it could be just the beginning.

Woods made a strong statement Sunday at the Target World Challenge, closing with a 5-under 66 for a two-shot victory over Padraig Harrington and heading into the short offseason with two straight stroke-play titles.

''I had to take baby steps all year,'' Woods said. ''I was working in the right direction. Sometimes, it might have been just three or four holes in one round that I played great, and then the rest of it wasn't so good. Eventually it became nine holes, then 18, then 36 and 54. Now it's a whole tournament. It's exciting.''

It was all good on a pristine day at Sherwood Country Club, where Woods missed only one green and two fairways for perhaps his most complete round of the year.

''Every shot I wanted to hit, I hit,'' Woods said.

He finished at 16-under 268 and won $1.25 million, which he donated to his foundation.

Harrington, who held off Woods at Sherwood, got into contention with a 31 on the front nine, then kept pace until a couple of errant shots cost him on the final three holes.

The Irishman hit his approach into a hazard on the par-5 16th, but had a chance to play out toward the green. It went into a bush, he had to knock that out left-handed and wound up with a bogey. After a clutch birdie on the 17th to get back within one shot, Harrington drove into rough so thick he had no chance to reach the 18th green.

He closed with a bogey for a 66, his only consolation a $750,000 check.

After ending the PGA Tour season without a stroke-play victory for the first time in his career, Woods now has won the last two stroke-play tournaments he has played -- the Dunlop Phoenix by eight shots last month in Japan, and the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event with a 16-man field.

His peers are starting to take notice.

''Looking at him, he seems to be getting things back,'' Harrington said.

Colin Montgomerie, who had a two-shot lead and was trying to win his first stroke-play title in the United States, bogeyed the first hole and never caught up. He shot 71 and finished at 13-under 271 with Jay Haas (69).

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