Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 19 News List

The swing's a struggle, but Tiger's checkbook still wins

AFP , MIYAZAKI, JAPAN

World No. 1 Tiger Woods heads home in positive spirits despite losing his last two regular tournaments of the year during a lucrative fortnight in Asia.

He crashed to European tour leader Padraig Harrington in a cliff-hanging play-off at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament here on Sunday, a week after unheralded South Korean Yang Yong-eun beat him at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

"I've got a long flight to Hawaii and I have to tee up on Tuesday for the Grand Slam, so it can't affect me too long," he said after handing the blue winner's jacket, which he had worn for for two straight years, to the Irishman.

"I struggled on Sunday and it gave me a chance to learn in the golf tournament. That's nice and positive," said the American, who will be 31 next month.

The 12-time Major winner is due to play in the US$1.25 million, 36-hole PGA Grand Slam of Golf event in Hawaii with the winners of this year's other Majors.

He will then host the Target World Challenge, an annual off-season charity golf event in the US before a Christmas break.

Nine wins

He has won nine tournaments including the British Open and the PGA Championship this year, which saw his father Earl succumb to cancer in May.

His defeat at the European Tour-sanctioned, US$5 million HSBC, Asia's richest event, followed a five-week break after he won the sixth straight US PGA tournament he played.

"I was struggling all day with my swing," Woods said about the final round in Miyazaki. "It wasn't just my tee shots, it was everything. I was just trying to hang in there."

His early three-shot lead was cut to two at 13 when Harrington birdied.

Harrington then birdied the 16th hole where Woods lipped out his third putt over three feet. They finished the 72 rounds in a tie at 271, nine under par.

On the second hole of the play-off, Harrington gambled on an incredible shot through a narrow gap between split tree trunks to set up a tap-in birdie. Woods' putt for birdie went wide.

Woods said the mistake at 16 probably cost him the tournament: "Unfortunately, this is the way it goes and I just learn from it."

His second-place prize money of US$167,000 added to his appearance fee estimated by local media at ?300 million (US$2.6 million), more than the tournament's total purse of US$1.7 million, the richest in Japan.

Third playoff loss

It was his only third loss in 15 play-offs during his 10-year professional career.

Billy Mayfair beat him at the 1998 PGA Nissan Open. Woods also lost to Nick Price at the 1998 Nedbank Golf Challenge, an unofficial event in South Africa.

"The great thing about stats is that they've got to fall sometimes," said Harrington after marking the 13th win of his 12-year career, his first in Japan.

"So just be there to be the one to break it," he said.

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