Woods proves beyond match

3-and-2 win against Love wins Match Play, gives him 40th victory on PGA Tour

`Tough to beat once he gets ahead'

Champion is undefeated on last 17 holes of final

March 01, 2004|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,LOS ANGELES TIMES

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Once again, match play was child's play for Tiger Woods, who won the Match Play Championship for the second year in a row and blew out the candles on his 40th PGA Tour victory.

Only seven players have won more than Woods, but none has made more money, a bankroll that Woods added to yesterday when he carted off $1.2 million as a result of his 3-and-2 victory over Davis Love at La Costa.

It was only a matter of time until it happened, but Woods also officially launched himself into exclusive new territory, golf's 40-40 club: $40 million (he has won $41.5 million) and now 40 victories.

In fact, it's so exclusive that Woods is its only member.

"Nice club," he said.

Nice timing. Woods has reached 40 victories the fastest of any player - in only 149 events - breaking Jack Nicklaus' record of 221.

What's more, Woods' winner's check in the $7 million tournament moved him from 18th to third on the money list with $1.731 million, behind only Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, but only $6,100 behind Mickelson.

Woods ended the match on the 34th hole when he made a 3-foot putt for par. Love, who held a 1-up lead after the first 18 holes, won none of the final 17. He blamed not only his putting, but also his failure to take greater advantage of Woods' problems finding the fairway in the morning's 18-hole session.

"Obviously, at the turn, he went out there and figured out how to hit fairways," Love said.

What Woods figured out after hitting a few balls on the range during the break was that his body wasn't in the proper alignment in his swing. He said he went back to basics in a little talk with himself on the range.

"Get your posture right, grip right, and let's just hit a few shots and see what happens," he said. "Let's get everything lined up and who cares where the ball goes on the range. Let's get comfortable first. I started seeing some results. I could actually put the club in the right position on the way down. All of a sudden, my speed came back."

And just like that, Woods took off in a hurry.

Woods started the 19th hole with a 12-foot, par-saving putt, then squared the match when Love bogeyed the next hole, the par-3 No. 2. Love said later that a heckler had been yelling at him and at the par-3 fifth, the 23rd hole, Love stopped play, confronted the fan and had him removed from the course. The fan, who yelled "No Love" when Love was walking to his ball on the tee, clearly unnerved Love, who said later that he had no choice but to stop playing and correct the situation.

"You don't have to like me, you don't have to pull for me, but respect me to play the game," Love said.

Two holes later, Woods took his first lead when he made a 12-foot putt for birdie and never looked back. Woods went 2-up after 26 holes when he birdied the par-5 eighth, hitting an 8-iron to 4 feet and rolling in the putt.

The lead went to 3-up after 27 holes when Love drove into the rough and Woods two-putted from 11 feet for par, making the second one from 4 feet.

Love, who could console himself with the $700,000 for second, had only one chance the rest of the way to get closer, but he left his 8-foot putt short at the 31st hole and failed to cash in.

Woods needed only 45 putts in 34 holes and didn't have a single three-putt.

"He's tough to beat once he gets ahead," said Love, who had trouble finding the pace of the greens after they were mowed between rounds and had only one birdie in six par-5 holes.

In this match-play event, Woods has proved difficult to beat. He is 20-3, has won it back-to-back and has won 12 consecutive matches. It was his eighth victory in World Golf Championship events.

And today marks the beginning of Woods' 238th week at No. 1 in the rankings.

But Woods said if he had been playing a stroke-play event, he would not have won.

"You know," he said, "my whole goal is to basically prepare and get ready for the Masters."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.