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Love Out-Matched Woods Defends Title

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods successfully defended his title at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Sunday, as he defeated Davis Love III, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final at La Costa Resort & Spa.
The win was Woods' second at this event and his first of the 2004 campaign. He now owns nine wins in World Golf Championships events, 40 titles on the PGA Tour and 21 on the European circuit.
'In match play, anything can happen,' said Woods, who passed Tom Watson and Gene Sarazen into a share of eighth for all-time wins on the PGA Tour. 'That to me is a pretty big rush and a great thrill to have that type of atmosphere.'
Woods pocketed $1,200,000 for the win, the largest first-place check on the PGA Tour.
For Love, it was his highest finish in this event but the sense of what could've been plagued him.
'I just didn't have it on the greens today and he started making them and he started hitting fairways and that is a bad combination,' said Love. 'I let it get away from me.'
Love led 1-up after the first 18 holes and seemed to be ready to extend the lead at the 19th. Love had a 18-foot look for birdie and came up short with Woods conceding his par. Woods went long and left with his second and hit a poor chip 12 feet short of the cup. Woods drained the putt to halve the hole.
Woods immediately squared the match at the next hole with a par after Love missed the green. The match remained even until the two reached the seventh.
At seven, Love looked to be in charge of the hole as Woods drove well right of the fairway. Woods was able to hit a shot over trees that spun back to 20 feet. Love was in the first cut on the right but hit an 8-iron to the back collar. Woods sank the putt and Love knocked his third long to give Woods his first lead of the match on the 25th hole.
That's where it started to slip away from Love.
At No. 8, Woods sank a five-footer for birdie to win the hole and go 2-up. Woods picked up his third straight hole at the ninth when Love went left off the tee and had to lay up. Love put his third into a front bunker and hit the stick with his fourth but the ball rolled four feet past. Woods lagged his 30- foot birdie putt three feet short and holed the par save to go 3-up.
'He made a few like that, that he had to make,' said Love.
Woods maintained his lead but it wasn't without his share of clutch putts. At 10, Woods rolled in a 10-footer for par that forced Love to make a four-foot par to halve the hole.
The 13th looked like a good chance for Love to dig into Woods' lead. Love had six feet for birdie to win the hole but his downhill putt actually came up short and that would be his last good opportunity.
Love needed to win out starting at the par-3 16th. Woods landed over the flag in the short rough but Love had 25 feet for birdie. Woods chipped to three feet and when Love's birdie try did not fall into the cup, the match was over.
'Davis played a good solid match,' said Woods. 'I wasn't exactly striking the ball all that well. It was a tough day and I made a lot of putts that kept the momentum on my side or even turned the momentum into my side.'
Earlier, Love had a great chance to put some distance between himself and Woods in the morning session of 18 holes.
The two were even when they reached La Costa's par-3 16th hole in the morning. Woods hit his tee ball right at the flag but spun it back to the collar of the fringe nearly spilling into the water. Love stuck his iron shot two feet from the hole and when Woods missed his birdie try, Love tapped in to go 1-up.
At the 17th, Love drove into the fairway while Woods found the rough off the tee, something he did often throughout the first 18 holes. Woods hit a low shot under a tree into the front bunker while Love's approach went 25 feet over the flag. Woods blasted out to five feet but it would not matter as Love drained the birdie putt to go 2-up.
Woods rebounded at 18 when he found the fairway. He knocked a 2-iron from 253 yards out at the par-5 hole to 30 feet while Love landed in the front bunker with his approach. Love blasted out to six feet and Woods lagged his eagle putt close enough for Love to concede the birdie. Love missed his birdie putt to cut his lead to 1-up.
'If I could have gotten 2- or 3-up, then maybe I would have putted better on the second 18,' conceded Love. 'I played pretty good. He can play the game no matter what rules you put out there, but he's a very good match-play player.'
In the afternoon, Woods hit more fairways and Love struggled with his putting.
'I was in quite a few places where I was in trouble,' said Woods. 'The good old flat-stick was the great equalizer.'
Darren Clarke, who lost to Love in Saturday's semifinal, defeated Stephen Leaney, 2-up, in the consolation match for third place.
Related Links:
  • Scoring - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship