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Tour News (posted 12th October 1998)

Woods' blunder costs US dearly in the Dunhill Cup

Associated Press

St Andrews, Scotland - For most of the Dunhill Cup, Tiger Woods played flawless golf looking very much like the best young player in the game.

Then came the last nine holes today when the Old Course became a struggle and one last putt became a catastrophe. Woods turned into an average weekend duffer at the end, his morale shattered when he missed a 4-foot tap-in, tumbling the heavily-favored United States out of the 16-nation tournament.

That's the way golf is sometimes.

The blunder during a match with Santiago Luna allowed Spain to advance to the finals, where it was swept later in the day by Ernie Els and defending champion South Africa.

Woods' meltdown came after 3-1/2 rounds of standout play and concluded a closing round in which he squandered a four-stroke lead after 10 holes.

"I had the chance with my putt at the last but I pulled it and gave him the match," Woods said. "It was a matter of picking the line and trusting it but I pulled the putt."

With a lineup of Woods, Masters and the Open champion Mark O'Meara and long-driving John Daly, the Americans appeared positioned to win the 1 million event a fourth time.

But Spain won two of the three matches. Apart from Luna's victory over Woods (71-72), Daly downed Miguel Angel Jimenez (73-75) and Jose Maria Olazabal stopped O'Meara (72-76).

"I had a chance but pulled a couple of putts at the last two holes," Woods said. "I just didn't hit them the way I liked and it wasn't good enough to take it into extra holes."

After Daly had won his match in another tense finish and with O'Meara trailing Olazabal by three strokes, Woods and Luna came to the last hole with the Spaniard ahead by one shot.

Putting for an eagle from just off the green, Woods left his ball 4 feet from the cup. Luna then handed him a great chance for a playoff. His eagle putt from an almost identical position rolled to the top of the green and slid back into the "Valley of Sin."

Luna's next putt ended 3 feet from the hole and Woods needed to make his to force a playoff. But he hit it wide and 3 feet long, and Luna made his putt to clinch the victory.

Woods played the front nine in 34 and seemed on course to continue his excellent play. His previous three rounds were 66-70-66.

Daly almost threw his match away, too. Daly, who was 6-up at the turn but even going to the last hole, beat Jimenez by two for a personal Dunhill Cup record of 8-1. He played in the United States' 1993 triumph.

"The most important thing was that I won and gave us a chance," said Daly, who double bogeyed the 17th after taking a penalty drop by the greenside wall, and drove to the back of the green at the 354-yard last to wind up with a birdie-3.

"I drove the green to 20 feet for my eagle at the ninth. That put me six ahead and I got real conservative from there. I've done that my last two games and that's not my style. You get defensive when you're six shots up."

O'Meara had previous rounds were 67 against England, 70 against Japan and 68 against Sweden. But the American captain had little against Olazabal.

"I couldn't read the speed of the greens today," he said. "I took two in a bunker at the 13th and my ball moved on the green at the 16th and I called a penalty on myself."

In a cold and windy final, Luna's luck didn't carry over - he lost to South Africa's Retief Goosen by one stroke. Then David Frost and Els, who teamed with Goosen in last year's triumph, beat Jimenez and Olazabal.

Frost's 4-over 76 was enough for a two-stroke victory over Jimenez. Olazabal produced a double bogey-6 on the 17th hole and finished with a 77, losing by two strokes to Els.

"We were all very surprised when Spain got through to the final," Els said. "We had been working out how we were going to play the Americans. I think we were a little bit at ease to play the Spaniards."

Goosen has won 10 times in a row in the Dunhill Cup. He is poised to beat Greg Norman's Dunhill record of 11 straight wins. The Aussie won his first 11 matches in 1985, '86 and '87.

"(Goosen) was our trump card all week," Els said. "And to play a level par round this afternoon in those conditions was quite phenomenal."