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Woods Restores Order

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods picked up another World Golf Championship and left behind another statement about his position in golf.
He's not going anywhere.
When Woods returned from his four-week winter break, the talk on the PGA Tour was about Vijay Singh and his 12 consecutive top 10s, how much he had closed the gap, and whether it was only a matter of time before he replaced Woods at No. 1 in the world.
Confronted with this evolving landscape, Woods only shrugged.
'It's a continuation of last year - same guys playing well,' he said at the Buick Invitational. 'Nothing has changed.'

Three weeks later, Woods served up a strong reminder.
He not only finished ahead of Singh in all three tournaments they played, Woods ended his California swing by winning the Match Play Championship for the second straight year.
'I don't know about a statement,' Woods said. 'I'm playing the same way as I did the end of last year. I'm playing solid golf. I've had top 10s in every tournament I've played in this year, so I'm very positive about that.'
Woods won for the 40th time on the PGA Tour in only 149 tournaments, which is 72 fewer than Jack Nicklaus needed to reach that milestone.
He has won eight of the 14 official World Golf Championships he has played, and Woods has finished out of the top five just once in the series - his first-round exit at La Costa two years ago.
He has been No. 1 in the world for 238 consecutive weeks, and he extended his lead Monday to 4.45 points, after Singh had narrowed the margin to under three points.
'He can play the game no matter what rules you put out there,' said Davis Love III, four times a runner-up to Woods and 0-3 against him in match play.
Woods left Sunday night for the Dubai Desert Classic on the European tour.
While the appearance money ($3 million) is more than double the $1.2 million he earned at the Accenture Match Play Championship, Woods doesn't have great memories of Dubai. Three years ago, it was the only time he blew a lead on the 72nd hole, making double bogey to lose by two shots to Thomas Bjorn.
He had gone six tournaments without winning to start the 2001 season, prompting one golf publication to put 'What's wrong with Tiger Woods?' on its cover.
Then, Woods won at Bay Hill, added The Players Championship a week later and made history at Augusta National by winning the Masters for his fourth consecutive major.
Woods has been so good for so long that he is always having to prove himself.
He has won 12 consecutive matches at La Costa, and his professional record in match play is 30-5-1.
'It's kind of funny,' he said Sunday night, a familiar trophy at his side. 'A few years ago, when I lost in the first round, you guys were saying, 'How bad you are as a professional at match play. How come you can't win matches?''
Woods isn't one to gloat, but he relishes these kind of challenges.
He'll face some more over the next couple of months.
When he returns from Dubai, Woods will try to become the first professional to win the same event five consecutive times at the Bay Hill Invitational.
The real test is next month at the Masters, and at Shinnecock Hills in June for the U.S. Open.
Despite winning eight majors, including four in a row, Woods is coming off a year in which he failed to win a Grand Slam event for only the second time in his career.
The majors are all that matter to him, which is why he doesn't mind staying away from golf so early in the year.
'My whole goal is to basically prepare for the Masters,' he said.
And he can expect more challenges from his competition.
Singh might have come as close as he ever will to Woods in the world ranking, although the Fijian has played consistently well for the last 18 months and shouldn't be judged on three weeks.
Woods will square off this week in Dubai against Ernie Els, who many believe has been the truest rival over the longest time, dating to the Big Easy's victory at the 1997 U.S. Open.
The most likely competition will come from Phil Mickelson, who has re-emerged from a tough year on and off the golf course by winning his first tournament of 2004 (Bob Hope Classic) and finishing no worse than seventh in his five events.
Woods has seen them all before.
Each time anyone threatens his reign, he always seems to have an answer.
Related Links:
  • Scoring - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship