Woods prevails after seven-hole playoff

 

Tiger Woods birdied the seventh playoff hole to defeat Jim Furyk and win his third consecutive World Golf Championships Invitational today in epic fashion.

Woods and Furyk each finished 72 holes at 12-under par 268, then staged one of the great two-man showdowns in golf over seven tension packed holes.

It was a dramatic end to a competition in which Ireland’s Darren Clarke finished in a very creditable third position. The big Ulsterman finished the tournament with a round of 68 for a combined total of 9 under par, three shots adrift of Woods and Furyk and two ahead of Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie who finished in fourth place.

This was the first title since June for Woods, who captured a third consecutive crown at the Memorial, only a two-hour drive from here.

The seventh playoff hole, and fifth trip of the day up the 18th, began after a brief storm delay. Furyk's tee shot landed under low-hanging tree limbs right of the fairway. He could only punch the ball into nearby rough.

Furyk swatted the ball to the edge of the green 60 feet from the cup. Woods then sent his 180-yard approach two feet from the cup, signalling the end of the incredible showdown.

Furyk two putted for a bogey before Woods tapped home the birdie for the victory.

Both men escaped near-certain defeat more than once in the playoff, which began on the the 18th and alternated with the 17th as the tension built with every swing.

Furyk rescued himself with a stunning chip-in from a bunker on the first playoff hole. Woods sustained his chances with a long putt on the second and an amazing save after teeing behind a tree on the third extra hole.

The last holes of regulation held tension as well. Woods matched Furyk for the lead at 13-under par by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th after Furyk missed a near-identical effort.

Both parred their first trip to the 17th, Furyk backing away twice from a short putt as the tension mounted. And then each found the bunker right of the 18th green to set up 72nd-hole bogeys that led to the playoff.

Furyk's clearing effort barely reached the green and his par putt halted 2 1/2 feet short of the cup. Woods blasted to the far edge of the green but left an 18-foot par putt just right of the cup.

Woods began the day two strokes behind Furyk, but sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the second hole after blasting out of a bunker and dropped a six-footer at the third to pull within a stroke of Furyk, who also birdied No. 2.

They dueled with no change for the next nine holes, each taking eight pars and a bogey at the par-4 sixth.

Woods seized the lead at 13 with a 10-foot birdie putt when Furyk missed a six-foot par effort. But the lead swung back Furyk's way on the par-3 15th when he made a 10-foot birdie and Woods missed a six-footer for par.

Australian Stuart Appleby and Americans Paul Azinger and Davis Love shared fifth place.

Two-time US Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa shared eighth with PGA Championship runner-up Phil Mickelson at 275 with reigning US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa 10th at 276.

Padraig Harrington finished in joint 17th place while fellow Dubliner Paul McGinley finished in 26th position.