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Tiger Woods happy to duel with Ernie Els again

Tiger Woods was almost as pleased to renew his rivalry with Ernie Els in their Dubai Desert Classic playoff as he was at clinching his second victory from two starts in 2006.

"It's great to have him (Els) back," Woods told reporters after a par-five at the first extra hole earned the world number one the title at the Emirates Golf Club on Sunday.

"Obviously he is one of the best players in the world and he had a significant injury. For him to come back and play and win early after his comeback is great.

"He has been playing great ever since. I knew that going into the final round and I was just hoping to try to keep up and I was able to do that somehow," said Woods, who also won the previous week's Buick Invitational in San Diego.

Els returned in December after a four-month absence caused by surgery on his left knee to finish ninth in Sun City, before lifting the Dunhill Championship trophy and coming second at the South African Open.

Holder Els blew his chances of a record fourth Dubai Desert Classic crown when he struck his second shot at the first extra hole, the par-five 18th, into the lake in front of the green and made a bogey.

"I had to hit that four-iron perfectly but I had half a decent lie and it almost worked," said world number five Els. "A yard or two out, just one of those things.

"That was my favourite tee shot of the whole tournament, I was five-under on that hole for the week with an eagle and three birdies. But there you go. I cannot complain.

"After all the hassle I had with the leg, to come back -- this was the strongest field in the world this year, the biggest week -- and to almost win it, is fine," added the 36-year-old South African.

Woods has achieved his two victories this year in playoffs and he said it was proving tough on his nerves.

"It's a good start (to 2006)," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything more than that.

"Two playoffs too, very stressful.

"It's a day I'm very proud of and I hung in there just like I did last week. Stayed around and made some key putts and some key saves and hit some crucial shots that allowed me to get into a playoff both times.

"It's a pretty good feeling when you're able to do that and turn things around like that."

Woods struggled with his swing throughout a closing three-under 69 which gave him a 19-under total of 269.

Australian Richard Green, playing ahead, held a one-shot lead on the last regulation hole.

But left-hander Green's attempt to cut the corner of the dog-leg ended in a horrible lie in the trees and an eventual bogey left him one stroke off the playoff.

"Unfortunately my driver has cost me another win," said the 1997 champion. "That 18th doesn't play as well for me as it does for the right-handers.

"I tried to be aggressive off the tee and take a bit more out of it but just came off it, and in the trees it was as bad a lie as you could get.

"I fluffed it out and unfortunately it got stuck behind a tree. Your nightmare has come true."

February 7, 2006

 




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