Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Woods secures NEC Invitational

AP , AKRON, OHIO

Kang Soo-yun of South Korea hits from the 10th tee during the Safeway Classic in Portland, Oregon, Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Tiger Woods overcame some shaky putting Sunday by making the one that mattered.

Woods rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt that broke sharply into the right side of the cup, then escaped with par from the trees on the 18th hole for a 1-under 71 and a one-shot victory over Chris DiMarco in the NEC Invitational.

Woods made it seven consecutive years with at least one World Golf Championship title since the series began in 1999, and he has won nine of the 18 WGC events he has played.

Despite his dominance at Firestone -- four victories in his last six trips -- this one required the most work.

Woods missed five putts inside 8 feet and trailed Kenny Perry by two shots when they made the turn. Even the birdie putt that finally gave him the lead required an approach from 189 yards over the water. It wasn't over until he pitched through the trees and onto the 18th green for a two-putt par from 20 feet.

"Let's just say I've had better days," Woods said with a smile when asked about his putting.

He finished at 6-under 274 and earned US$1.3 million for his fifth victory of the year, one more than Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, enough to end any debate about PGA Tour player of the year.

DiMarco, who lost to Woods in a playoff at the Masters, thought he might get another shot at him when he shot a 68 to finish at 275. Instead, he was forced to look back at a bogey on the 17th when he went after the flag and wound up in deep grass behind the green.

South Korea's Kang Soo-yun won for the first time on the LPGA Tour, shooting a 3-under 69 for a four-stroke victory.

Kang, who led by three strokes after the first two rounds, finished with a 15-under 201 total in sunny conditions at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

Women's British Open winner Jeong Jang shot a 70 to finish second, and Gloria Park was five strokes back after a 71.

Kang, wearing flashy black-and-white capri pants, frequently smiled and laughed -- comfortable in the final group that included compatriots Jang and Park.

She bogeyed the final hole but had built such a lead that it didn't matter. After she punched the sky in victory, a pair of her friends -- including Grace Park -- showered her with champagne.

Kang is in her third full season on the LPGA Tour.

Vaughn Taylor successfully defended his title, shooting an even-par 72 to beat Jonathan Kaye by three strokes with a tournament-record 21-under total.

Taylor, in his second year on the PGA Tour, joined Vijay Singh and Stuart Appleby as the only players to successfully defend a title this year and also became the fifth wire-to-wire winner of the season.

Taylor arrived at Reno this year ranked 86th on the money list with US$664,228. The US$540,000 winner's check pushes him past the US$1 million mark for the second consecutive year. He finished 67th on the money list with US$1.1 million last year.

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