Garcia shines for Spain in World Cup

THIRD ROUND ACTION: The Spanish team of Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel came back from six strokes behind to take the lead in the World Cup of Golf on Saturday

AGNCIES , SEVILLE, MIYAZAKI, JAPAN, KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA AND WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

Mon, Nov 22, 2004 - Page 19

Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain came from six strokes behind to take the lead in the WGC World Cup third round on Saturday.

A modest day in the better-ball by England's Paul Casey, who found out before his round that his golf club and equipment contract would not be renewed because of his anti-American comments during the week, and Luke Donald dropped them back to second, a shot back.

Four teams -- champions South Africa, first-round joint leaders Ireland, the US and Sweden, shared third spot, three off the pace.

Garcia was the dominant force for the new leaders as he buoyed an already enthusiastic home gallery at the Real Club by racking up two eagles and five birdies in Spain's 11-under-par 61 return that took them to 24-under-par 192.

Jimenez was the more quiescent partner with just two birdies but his save for par on the 18th kept the home favorites in front.

"We gelled very well," said Garcia, whose second eagle of the day on the long 16th could prove the shot of the week.

He needed only a wedge second on the 522-yard hole and a five-foot putt to make three.

"We knew we needed a big day to get close to the English boys and now we have a chance to win."

It is 20 years since Spain lifted the World Cup trophy when Jose Maria Canizares and Jose Rivero prevailed in Rome and Garcia believed the home crowd could help end the drought.

"I really enjoy it when there is a big crowd following, more people to make happy and show what I can do.

"They've been unbelievable all week and there are a lot of people we want to win for," he said.

The event switches back to the alternate-shot foursomes format for the final day and with four Ryder Cup men in the final match the crowd could be in for a nail-biting finish before the US$1.4 million first prize is decided.

England, five ahead before the third round, dropped no shots but their four-under 68 was one of the poorest returns of the day.

Casey, who caused a storm by saying he felt "hate" for his American opponents during the Ryder Cup, would not be drawn into whether the news of his loss of his equipment contract with Acushnet, owner of the Titleist/Footjoy and Cobra brands, had affected him, saying only: "No comment."

One of his greatest critics this week was US Ryder Cup team member Scott Verplank.

When Verplank, who on Wednesday suggested Casey should stay in England instead of playing on the US Tour next year, heard the news of the Englishman's loss of contract, he joked: "My name wasn't in there was it? I'm all right then."

Tiger wins

Tiger Woods collected his first strokeplay title of a difficult year when he stormed to an eight-shot victory at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament yesterday.

Leading by 10 strokes overnight, the American produced a three-under-par 67 for a 16-under total of 264 to taste success for the first time in four visits to Japan.

Woods' triumph signalled a welcome return to form after his five-year reign as world number one was ended by Fiji's Vijay Singh two months ago.

It also halted a run of 20 consecutive strokeplay events without a win, his longest drought since turning professional in 1996.

"It's a great feeling," said Woods. "It's a great sign. I've come close this year but to finally get over the top is such a great feeling."

Japan's Ryoken Kawagishi finished runner-up at the US$1.9 million event after a final-round 65. South Korean KJ Choi was a further two shots back in third place on six-under 274.

Last year's winner Thomas Bjorn of Denmark shot a closing 64 to finish seventh on 277.

Swing problems

Woods has struggled with his swing all year but had still produced 10 top-10 finishes in his previous 12 tournaments before arriving in Miyazaki.

He won the last of his eight majors at the 2002 US Open but Woods insisted he was close to returning to his best form.

"I'm excited things have started to come together in the last three or four months," said the 28-year-old American. "I'm excited about my prospects for next year."

Woods was never troubled in yesterday's final round and carded five birdies against two bogeys at the Phoenix Country Club.

"I knew that if I shot under par on each side the guys chasing me would have to shoot in the 50s to catch me and that's pretty tough to do," he joked.

UBS Cup

A mix-up between Gary Player and Mark McNulty, where they played the wrong ball, allowed the US to edge into a 6-1/2 to 5-1/2 lead over the Rest of the World in the UBS Cup on Saturday.

In the top fourball match, South African Player and Zimbabwe-born Irishman McNulty hit each other's ball from the ninth fairway, an error which cost them the hole against Arnold Palmer and Jay Haas with the match all square.

The score remained unchanged through the back nine and with results going their way in the other matches, the US were in a strong position to retain the UBS Cup.

The lone victory from the Rest of the World team came from the reliable pairing of Briton Colin Montgomerie and German Bernhard Langer who recorded their ninth matchplay victory in 11 matches together by overcoming Hale Irwin and Fred Funk 2 and 1.

The Rest of the World team, who have never won the Ryder Cup-style event for over 40s, need to win seven of the 12 final day singles to win the Cup.

ADT Championship

Annika Sorenstam shot an even-par 72 on Saturday to maintain a slight lead heading into the final round of the US$1 million ADT Championship.

Sweden's Sorenstam has a one-shot margin over Jennifer Rosales, of the Philippines, in the LPGA's season-ending event.

Having already clinched her seventh Player of the Year Award, Sorenstam is aiming for her eighth victory of the season.

"I don't know if I can call it a roller-coaster day, but it's been tough," said Sorenstam, who moved to 10-under 206 through 54 holes.

Sorenstam entered the day with a three-shot lead, but the Swedish superstar quickly saw that slip as she stumbled to two bogeys over the first five holes.

After another bogey on No. 11, Sorenstam recovered and showed why she is the top women's golfer in the world.

She converted birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 17.

Sorenstam is one stroke in front of Rosales (69) and American Cristie Kerr (70). Rosales, who is playing with an injury, enjoyed a bogey-free round.

"I'm just happy to be here," Rosales said.