Originally created 12/15/03

Love withstands furious rally by Woods



THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Davis Love III walked away with the largest check of his career. Tiger Woods made sure he earned every penny.

Love made a 45-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to finally breathe easy Sunday at the Target World Challenge, closing with an even-par 72 for a two-shot victory over Woods.

But Woods made him sweat on a chilly, mostly rainy day at Sherwood Country Club.

Trailing by 10 shots with 10 holes to play, Woods unleashed six birdies in seven holes and closed the deficit to a single shot.

He finished with two pars for a 65, then went to the clubhouse to see where it would leave him. Within minutes, Woods was dressed in blue jeans and sneakers.

He watched from the grill room as Love spun his wedge back 45 feet from the cup, below a ridge on the par-5 16th, then rolled it in for birdie and a two-shot margin with two holes to play.

Love clinched it with a bunker shot to 3 feet for par on No. 18. He finished at 11-under 277 and won $1.2 million from the $5 million purse.

"When he birdied five holes in a row, I knew the game was on," Love said. "And I had to play hard."

His largest paycheck had been $1.17 million at The Players Championship, one of his four PGA Tour victories this year.

This one doesn't count in the record books, but it still was plenty meaningful.

Love won against a world-class field that featured the top 12 players available from the world ranking and four sponsor's exemptions - two of them major champions.

He became the first repeat winner of the Target World Challenge since Woods created it five years ago. Love also won in 2000, the first year it was at Sherwood.

It was a familiar ending for Woods.

A year ago, he was six shots behind Padraig Harrington and closed to within one shot before taking a bogey on the final hole to finish two shots behind.

Woods earned $700,000, which he donated to his Tiger Woods Foundation.

Harrington closed with a 71 and finished third at 282. Masters champion Mike Weir (72) and Justin Leonard (71) were at 284.

K.J. Choi, who played in the final group with Love, had a 77 and was at 285.

Thick, gray skies descended over the foothills about the time Love headed for the practice range, and a drizzle turned into a raw, steady rain when he teed off with a three-stroke lead over Choi.

Choi had trouble keeping the ball in play and dropped shots on Nos. 4 and 6.

Love plodded along with a routine birdie on the par-5 second and great pars on the next two holes, especially No. 4.

His feet spun out and his hand slipped off the grip of his 3-wood, and his tee shot squirted just over the water. He wasn't close to reaching the fairway, but Love belted another 3-wood short of the green, then chipped to 4 feet for his par.

When he made a 10-foot birdie putt on the next hole, his lead was six shots over Choi, and Love was 10 shots clear of Woods.

It was a matter of getting to the clubhouse to dry off and pick up his check.

Not so fast.

Coming off a bogey on the par-3 eighth, Woods was 10 strokes behind with 10 holes remaining when he somehow brought some excitement to a lifeless day.

"I got into a rhythm on the back nine and just got it going," Woods said.

It actually started on No. 9 with an approach that spun back and lipped out of the cup for a tap-in birdie. Then, as Love made two bogeys in three holes, Woods reeled off five straight birdies, starting with a chip-in on No. 11.

"I knew I had to get into double digits (under par) to at least make it interesting," Woods said.

It was similar to his comeback at Pebble Beach in 2000, when he rallied from seven strokes behind with seven to play against Matt Gogel.

He holed a 12-footer for birdie at No. 12, then two-putted from about 70 feet on the next hole for birdie, followed by putts of 5 and 12 feet.

Suddenly, the lead was down to two.

"When I birdied the 15th, I thought if I could birdie the last three holes I would have a chance to win the tournament," Woods said.

Love got it back together with a delicate chip over the hump to 4 feet for birdie on the par-5 11th, and it appeared he again was in the clear.

Woods was three groups ahead and in trouble, hitting his tee shot into a creek on the par-5 16th. Momentum shifted in his direction, anyway.

Love went long on the par-3 12th, the worst place to miss, then chipped down the slope some 40 feet away and three-putted for double bogey. Woods holed an 18-foot par putt on the 16th, and the lead was down to one.

That was as close as it got. Woods missed birdie putts of about 25 feet on the last two holes, and Love sealed the win with his biggest putt of the week.