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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > European Tour > Dubai Desert Classic > Round 4


Tiger Woods beats Ernie Els in playoff

For Tiger Woods, one close shave deserved another. Now he's 2-0 for the year.

Woods won the Dubai Desert Classic over Ernie Els on Sunday, forcing a one-hole playoff against the defending champion with birdies on the last two holes of regulation to go 19 under.

On the playoff hole -- the 18th -- Woods reached the back of the green in two. Els put his drive into a grove of palm trees, and then hit his second shot into the water protecting the green to end it.

Woods finished with a par and Els declined to putt out after missing his par attempt.

"Somehow I got lucky," Woods said. "Today it was very fortunate because I didn't really have it, but the other guys didn't run away either."

Woods, who shaved the goatee he'd been wearing before rallying Saturday to grab a share of the lead, won his first tournament of the year last weekend in the Buick Invitational in San Diego, also in a playoff.

It was his first event after a six-week break, the longest of his career.

Sunday's victory was Woods' 57th worldwide -- 47 of them on the U.S. PGA Tour. It was also the 10th country in which he has won an official tournament.

The long vacation hasn't hurt, and neither did a 20-hour flight across 12 time zones to reach the Middle East.

This was Woods' third attempt to win on this desert course on the Arabian peninsula. Five years ago, he led after the third round but lost on the 72nd hole to Dane Thomas Bjorn, dumping a shot into the water hazard on 18. Two years ago, he watched Florida neighbor Mark O'Meara win.

Els and Woods were tied at 19-under 269 after regulation. Richard Green shot a 68 to finish 18 under and Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and Anders Hansen (71) came in at 17-under 271. Retief Goosen shot 71 for a 16-under 272.

Els shot a closing 5-under 67. Woods, who was tied for the lead with Anders Hansen after three rounds, closed with a 69 to go with rounds of 67-66-67.

For Woods, it was tough to get going Sunday.

He struggled with his driver and hooked drives badly on Nos. 2, 6 and 8 -- each time into sandy areas under palm trees. He saved par twice -- with a bunker shot to inches on No. 8, and with a 10-foot putt on the second -- but failed to recover on No. 6, missing a 20-foot par putt.

"What wasn't wrong?" Woods said. "I was all over the place. That's not a fun way to play the final round of a championship. I just tried somehow to eliminate one side of he fairway where I'm hitting nothing but a sweeping hook."

Playing in the threesome behind Woods, Els grabbed a share of the lead on No. 9 with a 12-foot birdie putt to go 17 under and join Hansen. Hansen bogeyed No. 8 a few seconds later to fall out of the lead for good.

Els moved to 19 under with birdie putts on 10 and 18.

Woods birdied the last two holes to reach 19 under. He drove the green on the 359-yard 17th, and got down in two from 25 feet. On 18, he sailed a fairway wood over the water-protected green into the rough just off the back edge, and again got down in two with a birdie on the 547-yard hole.

Woods received $400,000 for winning the $2.4 million event, adding that to the $3 million in appearance money he is widely reported to be receiving.

Dubai was one in a half-dozen tuneups for the Masters, which he won his fourth time last year.

"My list of things I need to work on is a lot shorter than it was last year at this time, which is great," Woods said. "So looking toward Augusta I don't have a big laundry list of things I need to work on.

"I just need to refine things and hope I get dialed in."



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