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Woods back to winning ways

January 24, 2005 11:11 IST

Tiger Woods broke out of his title slump on Sunday, firing a final round four-under 68 to claim the Buick Invitational by a three-stroke margin over Americans Tom Lehman and Charles Howell III and Britain's Luke Donald.

Playing with an intensity and self-assurance that made him golf's most feared competitor but was missing for large stretches of last season, Woods clawed his way to the top leaderboard on the final day and refused to be dislodged.

Woods finished the fog-affected tournament on 16-under-par 272 to collect his third win at California's picturesque Torrey Pines Country Club.

Despite having lost seven pounds and being weakened by flu, Woods' steady performance in difficult conditions confirmed his swing overhaul is now complete and that he is ready to reclaim the number one ranking he surrendered to Fiji's Vijay Singh last season.

The victory was the 41st Tour win of Woods' career but his first stroke play triumph since the WGC in October 2003.

"It feels great, especially today, as long as it was," said Woods, who played 31 holes in total after starting the day by completing his fog-delayed third round.

"The start I got off to this morning, it wasn't very good, but I hung in there.

"I just felt like I just needed to stay around. This golf course is so difficult, anything can happen. But I kind of just grinded around.

"I'm tired now. Losing that much weight for me, I just don't have the stamina. But I walked slower this afternoon. So I took my time and just tried to keep myself fed and try to eat as much as I possibly could to keep my energy.

"It's hard to believe it's been that long to win on our Tour, but it feels great."


While Woods' slump came to an end, Lehman's drought continued, the 2006

Ryder Cup captain having not celebrated a Tour win in five years.

It was the fourth time in seven events that Lehman had led or shared the lead after 54 holes but once again the veteran was not able to close out a victory, carding bogies on his last two holes to finish with a final round one-over 73.

"I'm disappointed, I can't help it," Lehman said. "I really felt it was a great chance for me.

"I don't get many chances to play in the final group with Tiger Woods, and for 30 holes today I held my own and really liked my chances.

"I felt very confident, high expectations. Until the very end, I felt I had a chance.

Donald, who lost in a three-way playoff last year to John Daly, had held the lead with nine holes to play.

But after shooting almost error-free golf all week, Donald made a crucial mistake on the par-four 14th and his double-bogey six surrendered a lead he would never recover.

"I expected to play better," Donald said. "I played spotless golf for three and a half rounds.

"It was obviously just a couple of shots, but those two shots cost me dearly and I'll learn from those mistakes."

Germany's Bernhard Langer had a final round even-par 72 to finish fifth at 11-under, one shot in front of South Africa's Ernie Els, who was a among a group of five golfers six strokes adrift at 278.

Singh, the winner at last week's Sony Open in Hawaii, looked set to mount a challenge for back-to-back titles after completing his third round in with a four-under 68 but the Fijian faltered in his final round to finish well back at five-under 283.

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