Just when it appeared as if Tiger Woods might be coming back down to earth, his star is shining brighter than ever.
After losing his lead and falling behind by four strokes following a 1-over-par 73 Saturday, Woods rallied back with a 7-under 65 in Sunday's final round to win the Dubai Desert Classic. The world No. 1-ranked player closed out the remarkable run at Emirates Golf Club with birdies on five of his last seven holes, including sinking a 25-foot putt at No. 18 for his second consecutive birdie.
Woods finished the tournament at 14-under 274, good for a one-shot victory over German Martin Kaymer. The title makes Woods two-for-two on the season as he recorded a dominant eight-stroke win in his 2008 debut at the Buick Invitational one week earlier.
"It's the ideal start, isn't it?" Woods said in his post-round press conference. "You play to win. So far, I've done that this year."
For Woods, it marked his largest comeback since he rallied from a five-shot deficit to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2000. He was able to do so by overcoming bogeys at Nos. 6 and 9 with six birdies on the back nine, including a chip-in from the fringe at No. 12, to capture his second win in Dubai and his 72nd victory worldwide.
"I'm just happy to get a win out of this," said Woods, who birdied three of his first four holes in the final round, but then gave two shots back before making the turn. "I thought I had to shoot 30 to get into a playoff. It just happened to be good enough."
Third-round leader Ernie Els faltered with a 1-under 71 in the final round, hitting his second shot into the water on No. 18, to finish tied for third with Louis Oosthuizen at 12-under 276. Graeme McDowell ended in fifth place at 10-under 278.
"The second shot on the 18th, it was right where I had it," Els told reporters. "But I could see the gust got it in the air and it didn't have much of a chance in the end there."
Asked which type of victory he prefers — a runaway like in the Buick or a dramatic rally — Woods didn't hesitate.
"I like (winning) by seven or eight a lot," said Woods, who has been victorious in his last four tournament starts and six of his last seven going back to the Bridgestone Invitational last August. "It's a lot less stressful."
Woods produced what turned out to be the winning birdie on 18 with a solid drive in the fairway followed by a 5-iron that wound up landing short of the green.
"Then I'm thinking it's a hard bunker shot, but really not that bad and I get down there and it's not in the bunker," said Woods, who was left with a delicate chip shot that he feared could roll off the green and into the water if struck too hard. "You have to make your mistake short."
What happened was Woods' putter bailed him out — big time. He watched his 25-foot downhill putt roll into the cup, triggering his patented fist-pump celebration.
"It was a pretty exciting final round," Woods said.
February 4, 2008
With stellar play on the back nine at Royal Birkdale, Padraig Harrington shot a 69 in the final round to earn a four-shot victory and become Europe's first back-to-back British Open champion in more than a century. He earned nearly $1.5 million and climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings. "I'm really thrilled with the way I felt today on the golf course," Harrington said. "I hit the ball as pure as I could and just felt really good."
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