Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Woods picks up 52nd PGA win

RUB OF THE GREEN?Tiger may have said that he was lucky to make the playoff, but neither Cink nor anyone else was surprised when he went on to win

AP , AKRON, OHIO

Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd after winning the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Tiger Woods celebrated his 10-year anniversary of turning pro on Sunday by winning for the 52nd time on the US PGA Tour, making an 8-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole against Stewart Cink to win the Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods won for the fourth straight time, a streak that began at the British Open.

Cink made up a three-shot deficit over the final three holes, and had the advantage on the first three holes of the playoff.

"I was very lucky to even be in the playoff," Woods said.

But with rain pounding Firestone South, Cink hit into a bunker on the 17th hole, and never got a chance to putt for par when Woods made his birdie.

Both finished at 10-under 270.

Woods won for the fifth time in the seven years this World Golf Championship has been played at Firestone, and he now has won more on this track than any other golf course on the American tour. Woods has won four times each at Augusta National and Torrey Pines.

"Just end this thing now," Woods said he told himself on the birdie putt at No. 17. "If I make mine, it's over."

It was on Aug. 27, 1996, that Woods announced in Milwaukee he was turning pro. Ten years later, his 52 victories match Byron Nelson for fifth place all time.

Cink was looking for a peculiar repeat.

Two years ago, he validated Hal Sutton's decision to make him a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup by winning at Firestone. Tom Lehman picked him on Monday, and Cink nearly delivered his first victory in two years.

"There were a lot of highs and lows today," Cink said. "Unfortunately, I finished on a low."

Cink had a shot to win on the first three playoff holes -- a 20-foot chip that grazed the lip at No. 18, an 18-foot putt that missed on the high side at No. 17, and an 8-foot par putt on the 18th again that missed to the right.

Woods was in trouble most of the time. On the first extra hole, he pulled his approach long and left into the rough, but pitched beautifully to 5 feet and escaped with par. The second time playing the 18th in the playoff, Woods found a greenside bunker 40 feet from the flag, blasted out to 8 feet and left it inches short.

"I didn't convert, and he did," Cink said. "That's why he has the trophy."

Victory seemed inevitable for Woods when he turned a two-shot deficit at the turn into a three-shot lead with his 20-foot birdie on the 13th.

That changed on the 652-yard 16th hole, when Woods hit into the trees down the right side and had to pitch out to the fairway, leaving himself some 230 yards to the flag. He went over the green, chipped to 4 feet and missed the par putt.

Cink, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, holed a 15-foot birdie on the 16th hole, then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to tie Woods atop the leaderboard.

Woods (68) and Cink (69) each had to make a 3-footer for par on the 18th hole in regulation -- Woods after leaving his 20-foot putt from the fringe short, Cink after lagging from 90 feet at the front of the green.

Jim Furyk closed with a 68 to finish one shot behind, making a 10-foot par save on the 18th to give himself a chance. Paul Casey of England, among four players atop the leaderboard at one point in the final round, stumbled on the back nine and shot 71. He tied for fourth along with Angel Cabrera (65), Lucas Glover (69) and Davis Love III (71).

Woods, Cink and Furyk headed to the Cleveland airport to join the rest of their US Ryder Cup team for a charter flight to Ireland, where they plan to spend the next two days practicing at The K Club.

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