Woods ends season with comeback

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2001

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Tiger Woods won the Williams World Challenge with a spectacular comeback Sunday, then donated the $1 million prize to his foundation.

For a guy who pulls in about $65 million a year, he's not lacking in money.

The quality of his golf was the real payoff.

Fortunate to be trailing by only four strokes at the turn, Woods poured it on with five straight birdies to blow by Vijay Singh and win his tournament for the first time.

''I needed to put some pressure on Vijay,'' said Woods, who tied the course record at Sherwood Country Club with an 8-under-par 64. ''I got hot, and he made a few mistakes.''

Woods capped it off with an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole and his first big fist pump since he won the Bay Hill Invitational in March.

He took only 10 putts on the back nine and played his best stretch of golf since he won the Memorial by seven strokes in early June. It was his first victory since the World Golf Championship at Firestone in August.

''I'm on the right track,'' said Woods, who finished at 273.

He was never too far removed, but this was something special -- even for a silly-season event that brought together a world-class field of 18 players.

''Tiger had a great run,'' said Singh, on the short end of a seven-shot swing over five holes. ''He birdied five in a row and it totally turned things around. We tried to catch up, but it was too late.''

Singh, who started the final round with a four-stroke lead, made a few sloppy bogeys to contribute to the comeback, but there wasn't much he could do.

It started on No. 9, Woods' worst hole of the round.

He hit 3-iron off the tee so far to the right that it cleared a creek and settled in thick brush on the side of a hill. Woods took a penalty drop, then hit his approach under the bleachers behind the green. From there, his chip off a hardpan lie rolled 45 feet past the cup.

That's where the turnaround began.

Singh lagged his 95-foot putt and had about 5 feet left for par. Woods rolled his bogey putt up the ridge and into the cup, then escaped with the same score when Singh pulled his par putt.

''That was big,'' Woods said. ''It looked like I was going to drop at least one or two shots. It was a huge momentum swing.''

Instead of leading by five strokes, perhaps even six, Singh had to settle for a four-shot margin. That didn't last long.

Woods studied the slope of the 10th green, walked back about 50 yards to the fairway and played a slow pitch that just cleared the bunker, skipped through the green and up a hill, then rolled back to 18 inches. Singh missed the green right and had no shot, chipping 30 feet down the slope and making bogey.

Woods holed a 12-foot birdie on No. 11 to pick up another stroke, then caught Singh with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th.

Singh appeared to have the advantage on the par-5 13th, lying just 99 yards from the hole in the middle of the fairway. He hit his wedge too hard, over the green, then chipped back through the green and into a swale, escaping with bogey.

Woods hit driver off the fairway into shin-deep grass about 30 yards from the green, the pin about 8 feet beyond a steep slope.

''I was just trying to put the ball on the upslope of the valley,'' Woods said. ''If it worked out great, if not I had a chance to chip in for birdie. It came out absolutely perfect.''

Did it ever. The ball bounced into the hill, crawled onto the green and rolled by the cup, stopping 4 feet away. He made that for his fourth straight birdie, and the gallery perched in foothills above the green went crazy.

He finished Singh off with an 8-iron that never left the flag and stopped 6 feet short, his fifth straight birdie. Woods one-putted nine straight greens, and required only 12 putts over his final 11 holes.

His 23rd putt of the round -- he had 34 on Saturday -- was a birdie on the 18th for a 64, tying the record last set Saturday by Thomas Bjorn.

If Woods can carry this into the next season -- which starts in 18 days at Kapalua -- it could be another amazing year.

Singh, who failed to win on the PGA Tour this year for the first time since 1996, closed with a 71 and earned $500,000. He won't play again until the Phoenix Open.

Scott Hoch complained about being left out of the field when the qualifications changed because of the terrorist attacks. The field was expanded to 18 to get him in, and he made the most of it with a 67 on Sunday to finish third at 279.

Mark O'Meara started and finished with a 66. It was that 74-75 in the middle that hurt him, although he tied for fourth at 281, along with Bernhard Langer.

It was the third Williams World Challenge, and Woods finally managed to win his own tournament. That leaves the Buick Open and the Nissan Open as the only two tournaments he has played at least three times without winning.

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