Tired Tiger Wins Again in Ohio

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It took 79 holes, a pair of clutch par-saves, a trio of missed opportunities and one final majestic swing of the club to give Tiger Woods his third straight victory at the WGC-NEC Invitational.
 
Woods birdied the 7th hole of sudden death to defeat Jim Furyk and collect his 29th career PGA Tour title.
 
Free Video - Registration Required Tiger talks about his win
 
'It was a war today. Neither of us gave an inch,' said Woods, who collected the $1 million first-place prize. 'It was fun to be a part of.'
 
The head-to-head match was also exhausting for Woods, who battled a bout of food poisoning at the beginning of the week.
 
Tournament officials pushed forward tee times Sunday in Akron, OH to avoid the incoming inclement weather.
 
However, Woods and Furyk put to test Mother Natures patience, as both men bogeyed the 72nd hole to finish regulation at 12-under-par 268 and force the first playoff at Firestone Country Club since 1995.
 
A playoff neither player would allow to end.
 
A year ago, Woods won his second straight NEC title with automobiles and flash photography illuminating the 18th green.
 
With the final group teeing off at 9:06 a.m., it appeared such extreme measures would not be neccessary this Sunday, but...
 
On the first extra hole, Furyk took two shots to get out of the greenside bunker, but his second found the bottom of the cup for a hair-raising par.
 
Tiger then sank a 20-footer for par on the second playoff hole to extend the tournament.
 
Furyk had three 15-footers over the next three holes to win the $1 million first-place prize, but didn't capitalize on any of his opportunities.
 
Finally, after narrowly ending the event on the sixth playoff hole, Woods stuck his approach shot on No. 7 to 18 inches, from where he tapped in for his sixth consecutive victory in the Buckeye State. He has also won three straight Memorial Tournaments.
 
'When we didn't mess up, and we did make our share of mistakes out there - we recovered pretty good. [We] made some big putts, big saves, hole-outs - you name it,' Woods said.
 
'Today was a lot of fun for me to just be involved in that, win or lose. It was just fun to compete like that where you were tested to the absolute utmost.'
 
The final twosome never felt pressure from any of the groups out front. Paul Azinger and Darren Clarke each made their way to 10-under, but neither could sustain a rally.
 
In the end, all attention was focused on Tiger and his potential tamer.Having cut an overnight deficit of two shots in half, Woods rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the par-4 13th.
 
Meanwhile, Furyks approach shot to 13 hit tree limbs right of the green. He chipped eight feet short of the hole, and then missed his par putt.
 
The two flip-flopped scores and positions. Tiger now led Furyk by one at 13-under.
 
For over three and a half days, Furyk had grinded, battled and scrapped to stay in the lead. And just because the worlds best player had overtaken him at the top didnt mean he was going to lay down now.
 
At the par-3 15th, Furyk stuffed his tee shot to 12 feet. This time he made the putt to regain a share of the lead; and when Woods missed his four-footer for par, Furyk was once again alone in first place.
 
Another two-shot swing. Another flip-flop. Furyk now led Woods by one at 13-under.
 
With thunderstorms approaching and the winds picking up, the two combatants made their way to the final stretch of holes. Both men laid up at the 625-yard, par-5 16th; and both men hit their third shots 12 feet past the hole.
 
Furyk, however, was just outside of Woods and was forced to putt first. He missed. Tiger then stepped up and knocked in his dead center to draw even.
 
Following a pair of pars at the 17th, Furyk and Woods each hit the center of the fairway off the 18th tee, but neither was able to find the green. In fact, both players pushed their approach shots into the right greenside bunker ' and neither got a good lie.
 
Furyks third shot barely cleared the lip of the bunker and finished 25 feet short of the hole.
 
Tigers wasnt any better. His blast flew past the pin and ran into the first cut of fringe ' 20 feet from the hole.
 
When Furyk left his par save two feet short, Woods had a chance to avoid a playoff. His putt teased the right edge of the hole, leaving Woods in disbelief ' and a tap-in bogey. Furyk then putted out to force sudden death.
 
They went back to the 18th, where again Furyk hit his second shot into the right greenside bunker. On the other hand, Woods found the putting surface ' some 25 feet from the cup.
 
This time, though, Furyks third shot didnt clear the lip; and instead stayed in the sand.
 
The tournament appeared to be in Tigers grasp, but he left his winning effort four feet short. Furyk then redeemed himself by holing out from the bunker. The ball completely circled the cup before falling in. Furyk ran out of the sand, pumped his fist, hi-fived his caddie ' Mike Fluff Cowan, who was Tigers caddie when he turned professional ' and released a roar worthy of a true tiger.
 
'I was thinking about holing it all the way,' Furyk said. 'It was obviously the most exciting part of the day for me.
 
'I'm usually not that emotional.'
 
Woods made his knee-knocker for par and the two traversed to the par-4 17th.
 
On hole No. 74 of the tournament, Furyk stuck his approach shot inside of 15 feet, while Woods flew his second over the green.
 
With the ball nestled against the second cut of rough, the best Tiger could manage was to chip his third shot 20 feet past the hole. This time Woods provided the dramatics by sinking the par save.Still, Furyk had a putt to win. His ball held its line until the end, where it broke off, caught the lip and spun out.
 
Back to the 18th.
 
Tiger hit first and hooked his tee shot way left. Despite being able to move his ball two club lengths ' a scoreboard was in his line of sight ' and away from some trees, he still had lay up short of the green.
 
'If I had to play from where it was, I would have gone right at the flag, because I had a shot to be able to put the ball in the bunker.' Woods said. 'Once I took the relief that was no longer an option. I just had to pitch out.'
 
His third shot proved to be magnificent, as it trekked to within three feet of the hole.
 
For the second time in as many holes, Furyk had a 15-foot birdie putt to win the tournament; and for the second time in as many holes, he failed to do so.
 
Would the third time prove to be the charm?
 
Once again, Furyk was 15 feet from victory on the 4th playoff hole. The putt had a bit more break than the previous two, but the result was the same. Furyk missed and the playoff continued.
 
Following two more pars on playoff hole No. 5, Woods nearly ended the event at No. 6. His 50-foot birdie putt looked good all the way to the hole, so much so that Tiger began to strike his triumphant pose.
 
Much like at the end of regulation, the ball grazed the hole, but avoided the bottom.
 
Having finally run out of patience, Mother Nature released a brief, but heavy rain. Play was momentarily suspended, though for only a couple of minutes.
 
When play did resume, Furyk hooked his tee shot at the 18th into the left trees. He had to pitch out and left his third shot in the front fringe of the green.
 
Tiger, however, was right down the middle of the fairway off the tee; and much like he did in 2000, Woods stuck his approach shot inside of two feet.
 
'I was very lucky to come out on top because I very easily could have missed a couple of those putts, or not had shots and didn't get relief,' Woods said. 'A lot of different scenarios could have happened where I would not have won.
 
'But in either case, I think it would have been fun to compete at this level.'
 
News, Notes and Numbers
 
*Furyk was seen following his post-round interview checking out the site from where Woods took relief on the third playoff hole.
 
*Kirk Triplett was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard after the second round. Triplett arrived at the 10th tee Sunday and told officials he heard about the penalty incurred by Phil Mickelson on No. 16 Saturday and realized he had done the same thing.
 
Triplett picked up his ball on the 2nd hole in the second round to try and identify it, but he did so without informing his playing partner, Lee Westwood, of his intentions. The failure to count the one-stroke penalty forced the disqualification. Triplett will split last-place unofficial money of $26,000 with Westwood, who withdrew due to an injured wrist Friday.
 
*Retief Goosen played the par-4 1st in 5-under-par this week. Goosen recorded three birdies and an eagle. The eagle came courtesy of a 9-iron hole-out from 142 yards on Saturday.
 
*First-round co-leader Greg Norman made four double bogeys en route to a final-round 10-over-par 80. After making seven birdies in the first round, the 46-year-old Australian recorded only three over the next three rounds combined.
 
Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational