Tiger bests Harrington by two strokes

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- At this rate, Tiger Woods probably
can't wait for the 2005 season to start.

Woods turned in his most complete round of a difficult year
Sunday, missing only two fairways and one green in closing with a
5-under 66 for a two-shot victory over Padraig Harrington in the
Target World Challenge.
It was Woods' second straight stroke-play title after going
without one on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career.
Woods won the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japanese tour last month by
eight shots. The Target World Challenge is the last of the
silly-season events and doesn't count as an official victory.
Still, Woods beat an elite 16-man field with a game that is
starting to look vaguely familiar.
"Every shot I wanted to hit, I hit," Woods said.
He finished at 16-under 268 and won $1.25 million, which he
donated to his foundation.
Harrington, who held off Woods at Sherwood Country Club two
years ago, got into contention with a 31 on the front nine, then
kept pace until a couple of errant shots cost him on the final
three holes.
The Irishman hit his approach into a hazard on the par-5 16th,
but had a chance to play out toward the green. It went into a bush,
he had to knock that out left-handed and wound up with a bogey.
After a clutch birdie on the 17th to get back within one shot,
Harrington drove into rough so thick he had no chance to reach the
18th green.
He closed with a bogey for a 66, his only consolation a $750,000
Colin Montgomerie, who had a two-shot lead and was trying to win
his first stroke-play title in the United States, bogeyed the first
hole and never caught up. He shot 71 and finished at 13-under 271
with Jay Haas (69).
Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 70 to finish another stroke behind.
Woods was coming off his worst season on the PGA Tour. His only
victory was the Match Play Championship in late February, he failed
to seriously contend on the back nine of any major and he lost his
No. 1 ranking to Vijay Singh in September outside Boston.
But the swing changes he began in March appear to be taking
hold, and the last month has been proof.
So was Sunday.
Woods had full command of every shot, and there would not have
been much drama if he could have made a putt. He missed six birdie
chances inside 15 feet, and his longest putt for par was 8 feet.
That might have been the biggest, however.
Playing in the group behind Harrington, Woods pulled his 2-iron
into a tree next to the 16th green and had to punch into the thick
rough guarding the green. As he was starting his downswing on a
flop shot, a man on the bridge yelled out, "C'mon Woods!"
Woods dropped the club in disgust as sheriff's deputies took the
man away. He backed off the par putt, and he and caddie Steve
Williams pumped fists when it dropped to protect a two-shot margin.
He kept his distance by hitting within 20 feet the last two
holes. The only green Woods missed was a 5-iron out of thick rough
on the 485-yard 11th hole that trickled off the putting surface and
sat up in the first cut.
"I felt very comfortable with my swing," Woods said.
It was a good test under pressure, thanks to Harrington.
Woods quickly made up ground on Montgomerie with a 10-foot
birdie on the opening hole, a bunker shot to 6 feet for birdie on
the par-5 second and a 240-yard 6-iron into 30 feet for a two-putt
birdie on the par-5 fifth.
Harrington proved to be the threat with a 31 on the front.
"I figured Monty or Jay was going to put something up on the
front," Woods said. "I didn't think Harrington would shoot 5
under. I had to keep pace, and I felt like I did that."
Woods took the outright lead with a 335-yard drive on the short
10th, skipping a sand wedge into 6 inches. After Harrington pulled
into a tie with a birdie on the par-5 13th, Woods blasted a 3-wood
over the gorge, the bunker and just onto the green for another
two-putt birdie.
Closing with five straight pars was all he needed to win his
tournament for the second time.

Divots: Todd Hamilton wore a burgundy shirt for the final round.
"I've got Tiger's shirt on. I want to see if it works," he said.
The British Open champion shot 73 and tied for last with Stephen
Ames. ... Vijay Singh closed with a 68 and tied for eighth, 11
shots behind. ... John Daly had the best round of the tournament, a
65 to finish at 2-under 282.