SAN FRANCISCO -- Tiger Woods and John Daly made the PGA Tour
feel like a rock concert Sunday, the delirium reaching such
decibels that Woods felt his ear drums pounding as golf's two
biggest sluggers headed for a sudden-death playoff at Harding Park.
It was a titanic struggle that ended with a whimper.
Despite their 350-yard tee shots that soared majestically
against the blue sky over Lake Merced, the American Express
Championship came down to a putt that would have been a gimme on
most municipal golf courses.
Daly, who seconds earlier had a 15-foot birdie putt to win,
missed a 3-footer for par on the second extra hole to hand Woods
his 10th title in the World Golf Championships.
"That's not how you're supposed to win a golf tournament,"
Woods said. "We're in a playoff, we're battling, and J.D. played
beautifully all week. It shouldn't end like that."
It was a somber conclusion to an otherwise spectacular
tournament at San Francisco's municipal gem.
Woods, he of the massive fist pumps and megawatt smile, bowed
his head and drew his hand over his right eye as if he had just
lost the tournament.
Daly walked off the 16th green and handed his putter, which
betrayed him over the closing holes, to Frank Lopez, one of
thousands of faces in the gallery who hated to see this end.
"I really thought I was going to make the (birdie) putt," Daly
said. "You know, what do you do? I know Tiger didn't want to win
that way, and I certainly didn't want to lose that way."
Woods made up a two-shot deficit over the final three holes to
force a playoff and closed with a 3-under 67. He won the American
Express Championship for the fourth time in six starts, and is now
10-for-19 in the World Golf Championships that count toward
It was his sixth victory of the year, and the third time golf's
best closer had to rally in the final round. Considering he had a
swing he couldn't trust, and a lingering rib injury that required
treatment all week, this might have been as impressive as any.
"I didn't really have my best stuff this week, but I still hung
in there with my mind and putted beautifully, and hit shots when I
really had to," Woods said.
Daly closed with a 69, three-putting from 30 feet on the 17th to
crack open the door for Woods.
He had two chances to win the tournament -- a 16-foot birdie putt
on the 18th hole in regulation that he left short, then the birdie
putt on No. 16 -- the second playoff hole -- that he three-putted for
"It's discouraging to lose that way," Daly said. "To fight
like I did -- I really didn't hit the ball that great today -- just
to give myself an opportunity to win, it's disappointing. I played
my heart out."
Colin Montgomerie missed birdie putts of 6 and 10 feet to cost
himself a chance for his first official victory on U.S. soil, but
kept alive his hopes with a 12-foot birdie on the 17th to get
within one shot.
But he missed the 18th green, chipped weakly and took bogey for
a 70 that left him in a three-way tie for third at 272 with Henrik
Stenson (68) and Sergio Garcia (69).
The 8-foot par putt Monty missed on the last hole was worth
$159,500. Still, he earned $353,666 to move past Michael Campbell
atop the Order of Merit and is poised to win Europe's money title
for the eighth him.
The other winner was Harding Park, the municipal course with a
$16 million makeover that proved to be a worthy test for the best
players in the world.
Woods and Daly shot 10-under 270, and only 24 of the 71 players
who started the event finished under par.
It was the third time this year Woods has rallied in the final
round to win, and his second victory in a playoff to increase his
career record to 8-1 in extra holes. The other was the Masters,
which he won with a birdie.
The only similarity to Augusta National was that Woods found his
swing at the end.
Struggling throughout the day to find the fairway, Woods figured
he needed a birdie on the 18th to have a chance, and it was his
best swing, a mammoth drive that left him 103 yards away on the
He missed the birdie, and figured it was over when Daly stood
over his birdie putt moments later.
Loyalties were evenly divided from the gallery, and the fans
about screamed themselves hoarse on the 18th hole in the playoff,
the most daunting hole at Harding Park that requires a tee shot
over Lake Merced and a row of cypress trees to a skinny fairway.
First came Woods, hammering away, the roar shaking the grounds
when it found the middle of the fairway, then rolled into the first
cut. Next up was Daly, a grip and a rip, then reaching over to pick
up his cigarette as the ball landed some 10 yards ahead of Woods.
Both had to settle for par.
Woods, who birdied the 16th in regulation, again went with iron
off the tee and hit his approach weakly to 25 feet. Daly went with
driver, and hit a cypress tree with such force that it dislodged
another ball from the tree. He had just enough of an opening to
smash a sand wedge over the bunker to 15 feet.
Woods thought the tournament was over when he missed his birdie
putt. He was getting ready for the 17th hole when Daly missed
"I just felt so bad, because he played so solidly the entire
week," Woods said.
Woods will take it, though, along with the $1.3 million that
pushed his season earnings over $9.9 million. With two tournaments
left, he is in range of the record $10.9 million won by Vijay Singh
a year ago.
The rest of the round was just as electric as the final hour.
Four of golf's most notable figures -- Daly, Woods, Montgomerie
and Garcia -- were locked in a four-way battle until Woods made a
run at Daly, and the others couldn't keep up.
Woods was three shots behind and finding more shade in the trees
than sunshine on the fairways, but he fired off three straight
birdies, the last one an approach from 205 yards into 3 feet to
catch Daly at 10 under.
Daly responded by chipping in from 55 feet across the 13th green
for birdie. In the group ahead, Woods went from rough-to-rough on
the 14th and couldn't recover, making bogey to fall two behind, and
Daly again had control.
For all his length, a short putt cost him the lead at the 17th.
Another one in the playoff cost him the tournament.