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Woods back at number one

March 07, 2005 09:54 IST

Tiger Woods regained the world number one ranking after winning a gripping duel with Phil Mickelson to register a one stroke victory at the Doral Open on Sunday.

Trailing Mickelson by two shots at the start of play, Woods mounted one of his patented charges to card a final round six-under 66 at Miami's Doral Resort for a 24-under 264 total.

The victory was Woods' second of the season and returned the 29-year-old American to the top of the rankings, ending Vijay Singh's 26-week reign as number one.

Woods had held top spot for a record 264 consecutive weeks before being dethroned by the Fijian last September.

The triumph earned Woods $990,000 and a high-performance sports car which he said he would give to caddie Steve Williams, who is still recovering from injuries he sustained in a motor racing accident in January in New Zealand.

"I just felt like had to keep making birdies, pars just weren't going to get it done," said Woods, who broke the 72 hole tournament record of 265 held by Jim Furyk and Greg Norman.

"It's nice to come from behind like this.

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"Starting out the day, Phil had all the pressure on him. He's got a two shot lead and he's been playing all year, everyone was kind of looking at him to go out and win the tournament.

"But he was going to have to try and earn this, I'm going to make him earn it. He's going to have to play really and I went out there and played really well myself."

The final round of the $5.5 million event took on the feel of a heavyweight title bout as the two most popular players on the PGA Tour went toe-to-toe on the famed Blue Monster, treating the huge galleries to a pulsating afternoon of golf.

Having lost to Woods all three times they have clashed in a final round, a deflated Mickelson slumped off the 18th bloodied but unbowed demanding a rematch as soon as possible.

MICKELSON DISAPPOINTED

"It was great for him he won but it sucks for me I lost," Mickelson said.

"I really thought I was going to win, I could have won, I should have won. I just hope I have another shot soon.

"I loved the competition, I loved going head-to-head with him, I'm just a little ticked at myself that I didn't win.

"I loved the fact he was playing his best. I wanted the chance to beat him at his best, I'm just disappointed I didn't do it.

"This was probably the best thing that could happen to me heading to the majors because I felt like I was playing better than everybody and just knew I was going to win today.

"When I didn't it was a great slap in the face because I'm going to work my tail off to salvage a couple of more shots.

"When I come back to the Players Championships and the Masters I'm going to be ready."

Trailing by a single shot as they made the turn, Woods turned up the heat, catching Mickelson with a birdie on 10, then shocking the U.S. Masters champion with an eagle on the par five 12th to surge two clear.

Mickelson, however, demonstrated plenty of grit of his own, holing back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14 to pull level and set the stage for a dramatic finish.

With the holes dwindling and pressure mounting, Woods and Mickelson both carded their only bogeys of the day at the 16th, the shortest par four at Doral.

At the 17th, Woods displayed the determination and focus that has been the trade mark of his brilliant career, draining a 28-foot birdie putt to seize control.

The drama, however, was far from over.

Battling until the end, Mickelson kept the gallery in suspense, his chip from the fringe on 18 that could have forced a playoff rimming the cup, Woods sealing the win with a six-foot putt.

Almost forgotten in the hysteria surrounding the Woods and Mickelson showdown was Singh, who quietly clawed his way back into contention firing a final round 66 to finish in a tie for third with American Zach Johnson at 19-under.
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