|Tiger Woods pumps his fist after a birdie putt on the 18th wins the Dubai Desert Classic. (PETER MORRISON/Associated Press)|
Tiger Woods watched his 25-foot putt race down the slope and bend toward the cup, then he skipped backward and punched the desert air in celebration when it disappeared into the cup for a final birdie.
So ended his spectacular charge yesterday to win the Dubai Desert Classic over Ernie Els, a familiar victim. Woods birdied his last two holes, and five of his last seven, for a 7-under-par 65 to start his season with two victories that looked nothing alike.
One week was an eight-shot victory at the Buick Invitational. The next week was his largest comeback in eight years when Woods rallied from a four-shot deficit with an array of impressive shots that make him look tougher to beat than he already is.
"I'm just happy to get a win out of this," Woods said.
It was the third time Woods has started his season 2-0, another sign that he could be headed for a big year. He now has won his last four official tournaments, and six of his last seven dating to the Bridgestone Invitational in early August. Woods also won his unofficial Target World Challenge by seven shots in December.
"It's the ideal start, isn't it?" Woods said. "You play to win. So far, I've done that this year."
Woods finished at 14-under 274 for a one-shot victory over Martin Kaymer of Germany. Woods had already posted his score when Kaymer, who won two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, closed birdie-birdie-eagle for a 66.
But the real victim was Els.
He started the final round with a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson and was four shots clear of Woods.
The 38-year-old South African missed par putts inside 5 feet on the 11th and 12th holes to lose the lead, but he still had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie on the par-5 18th. Instead, Els hit 5-wood that came up well short and ended up in the water.
He finished with a bogey for a 71 and tied for third with Louis Oosthuizen.
It was a devastating blow to Els, who stared at the ground as he walked toward the 18th green. He is in the middle of a three-year plan to overtake Woods at No. 1 in the world, and said at the start of his season that he needed to start winning.
This was the perfect occasion, and he let it slip away in familiar fashion. Two years ago at Dubai, Woods birdied the last two holes to force a playoff against Els, then beat him when the South African hit his second shot into the water on No. 18.
This one never had a chance.
"The second shot on the 18, it was right where I had it, but I could see the gust got it in the air and it didn't have much of a chance in the end there," Els said.
PGA - J.B. Holmes came back from the brink of defeat to win the FBR Open for the second time in three years, beating Phil Mickelson on the first hole of a playoff in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Holmes birdied the 18th twice in a matter of minutes, first with a 13-foot putt to force the playoff, then with an 8-footer after a monster, 359-yard drive.
"I can play under pressure, I guess," he said.
Holmes, whose victory as a rookie at the FBR in 2006 is his only other PGA Tour win, had blown a four-stroke lead and was one shot behind going into the 18th. The far more seasoned Mickelson seemed destined for his third victory in the tournament and 33d of his career.
But the 25-year-old Kentuckian smashed a 350-yard drive that landed near a fence far left of the fairway. He was given a drop, then hit his second shot out of the rough 13 feet from the pin to set up the putt that put him at 14-under 270 and forced the playoff.
European/Australian LPGA - Karrie Webb won her fourth Women's Australian Open title with a 10-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff against Shin Ji-yai in Melbourne.
Webb, who won last year's title at Royal Sydney, and Shin had final-round 67s at Kingston Heath to finish at 8-under 284.
Both players had parred the 18th on the first hole of the playoff before Webb's winning putt on the same hole 15 minutes later.
Nationwide - Jarrod Lyle won the Mexico Open for his first Nationwide Tour victory, closing with an 8-under 63 for a five-stroke victory over Matthew Every in Morelia, Mexico.
Lyle had an eagle and four birdies on the final six holes on the front nine and added birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.