Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Woods wins by eight at Firestone

IN FORM It was only the fifth time Tiger Woods has played the week before a major, and whether his dominance continues at the US PGA Championship remains to be seen

AFP, AKRON, OHIO

US golfer Tiger Woods poses with the winner's trophy at the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Tiger Woods won the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday to become the first player in US PGA Tour history to claim two hat-tricks of wins in the same event.

The world No. 1 came from a shot behind in the final round, carding a bogey-free five-under 65 to blow away the field in intermittent rain at Firestone Country Club.

He finished at eight-under 272, eight strokes ahead of third round leader Rory Sabbatini (74) as well as Englishman Justin Rose (68).

It marked Woods' sixth victory the past eight times the World Golf Championships event has been played at Firestone. His first three victories came from 1999 to 2001.

Woods was fourth in 2002, when the event was played in Seattle, before finishing tied for fourth and tied for second the following two years when it returned to Firestone.

"It's hard to describe, but this course just gives me a bunch of confidence every time I come here," Woods said.

He has now won 14 times in 26 starts in elite World Golf Championship events, a success rate rate of more than 50 percent.

Woods wasted little time taking the lead, with four birdies in the first six holes, and the back nine turned into a victory parade.

"Getting off to probably the most ideal start, the whole idea was to try and keep the card clean somehow and not drop a shot," Woods said. "I had a big enough lead on the back nine that the guys behind had to play an unbelievable back nine just to have a chance."

About the only time Woods looked vulnerable was at the par four ninth, where his second shot landed in the pocket of a female spectator's poncho.

Woods was granted a free drop and chipped across the green to the fringe before chipping in with a nine iron from 6m to salvage an unlikely par.

Sabbatini, who had been bullish on his chances heading into the final round, didn't try to hide his disappointment.

"I never put any pressure on Tiger, never forced the issue, and he got far enough ahead he could just cruise," the South African said. "I just played into his game. I spent too much of the day trying to hack the ball back out to the fairway, and it made for a long day."

Rose was never in the hunt, picking up a back-door runner-up finish that left a smile on his face as he contemplated next week's US PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma -- the final major of the year.

"For me, vying for second place was an exciting prospect," Rose said. "I'm excited about the momentum I've built up going into next week."

This was only the fifth time that Woods has played the week before a major, and whether or not he continues his dominance at the PGA Championship remains to be seen, but he sounded confident.

"The whole idea was to win this event, but also be playing well going into next week," Woods said. "I made some nice strides this week, and I feel very good going into next week. Considering the way I hit the ball at the British Open, this week I hit it a little better."

"I didn't putt as well as at the British, but I've gotten everything more organized. I'm in better shape than going into the last major," he said.

Flesch makes wire-to-wire win

AFP, RENO, Nevada

Steve Flesch completed a wire-to-wire victory in the US$3.5 million Reno-Tahoe Open on Sunday, and booked his berth in the US PGA Championship that starts on Thursday in Oklahoma.

Flesch, who took a five shot lead into the final round, finished with three birdies and three bogeys to win by the same margin.

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