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Woods wins TargetChallenge by two shots

Tiger Woods won his final tournament of a difficult year.

It looks as if it could be just the beginning.

Woods made a strong statement Sunday at the Target World Challenge, closing with a 5-under 66 for a two-shot victory over Padraig Harrington and heading into the short offseason with two straight stroke-play titles.

``I had to take baby steps all year,'' Woods said. ``I was working in the right direction. Sometimes, it might have been just three or four holes in one round that I played great, and then the rest of it wasn't so good. Eventually it became nine holes, then 18, then 36 and 54. Now it's a whole tournament. It's exciting.''

It was all good on a pristine day at Sherwood Country Club, where Woods missed only one green and two fairways for perhaps his most complete round of the year.

``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 in 2002, 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 check.

After ending the PGA Tour season without a stroke-play victory for the first time in his career, Woods now has won the last two stroke-play tournaments he has played -- the Dunlop Phoenix by eight shots last month in Japan, and the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event with a 16-man field.

His peers are starting to take notice.

``Looking at him, he seems to be getting things back,'' Harrington said.

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' only PGA Tour victory this year 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.

``It looked like he had it on cruise control,'' Haas said.

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.

``I obviously was agitated and had to get my focus back,'' Woods said. ``That putt was huge.''

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.

Next up: A three-week break before the PGA Tour season begins at Kapalua with the Mercedes Championships.

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.

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