Tiger Woods Tiger Woods wins second consecutive Target World Challenge - his 8th victory of 2007

For the second consecutive year, Tiger Woods didn't exactly play the role of polite host in the Target World Golf Challenge.

Even after a 10-week layoff, Woods capped the 2007 season Sunday with a seven-stroke victory over what started out as a 16-player field at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The world No. 1 player finished with a 4-under-par 68 to tie the tournament record at 22-under 266, while setting the mark for the largest margin of victory in the event.

The first-place finish earned Woods a $1.35 million paycheck that will go to the Tiger Woods Learning Center. Woods, who had seven victories and recorded $10.8 million in earnings during the official PGA Tour season, said it was a great way to close the year — something he discussed with his caddie, Steve Williams, while walking up to the 18th green.

"It's been a long year, but also one that we've thoroughly enjoyed," Woods told reporters. "I just can't wait until, obviously, next season starts. I think that's where this break has been really nice.

"I've been fired up to come back and practice and play and get after it again, and this week gives me just a lot of excitement heading into my practice sessions and getting ready for next year."

Masters champion Zach Johnson finished second, earning $840,000 after shooting 15-under 273 in the four-day, 72-hole event. First-round leader Jim Furyk finished third at 13-under 275, while Lee Westwood was fourth at 11-under 277 and Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker tied for fifth at 9-under 279.

Johnson said he came away pleased with most of his performance.

"As a whole this week, if there's any negative I would say it was the par 5s," Johnson told reporters. "I just didn't capitalize when I could or should have, but that's being pretty picky.

"A lot of positives this week, and certainly as I look to a couple times over the last two or three days, I think it's given me a little bit of confidence with what I'm doing, and it's certainly going to help me going into '08, so I like what I'm doing."

Woods, golf's most reliable closer, began the final round with a six-shot lead over Furyk. However, Furyk birdied five of his first nine holes, and some miscues by Woods closed the margin to two strokes at the turn.

"The front nine went as good as I could have expected," Furyk said in his post-round press conference. "Tiger had a couple loose shots … and all of a sudden it was looking good."

However, Woods responded with a 12-foot birdie putt, while Furyk three-putted from four feet to turn the tide.

"It got a little interesting there," said Woods, who shot a tournament record 62 in Friday's second round. "I made two mistakes there at (No. 7) and (No. 9). Jimmy played just a great front nine, even with a mistake on the second hole, and the whole tournament changed at the 10th.

"It looked like I was going to be basically one up with eight to go. I made mine and Jimmy made a couple mistakes there, and all of a sudden it went from — back up to four shots and changed the entire tournament and the entire feeling on the back nine."

After that, perhaps the only drama left in the tournament was Woods' response to Rory Sabbatini's decision to withdraw from the final round. Sabbatini, who has had a few contentious moments in the past with Woods, was in last place and pulled out of the tournament Sunday morning.

Sabbatini reportedly told event officials he was withdrawing for personal reasons. Later, the South African's agent told the Associated Press that his early departure was due to shin splints.

"I just don't really understand — I've had conflicting reports," said Woods, who hosts the tournament that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. "I've heard he had shin splints, I heard he pulled out for personal reasons. He packed his locker up at three o'clock yesterday and I think headed to Hawaii.

"A lot of different things going on and I'd like to try and get to the bottom of it when I'm done here, and we'll see what happens."

December 17, 2007

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