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Woods’ win down to ‘experience’

By Neale Graham
A RELIEVED Tiger Woods believes his play-off experience made the difference against Ernie Els at the end of a nail-biting Dubai Desert Classic.

The world number one claimed his first victory in the Emirates at the third attempt after forcing a sudden-death head-to-head at the 18th with two birdies in his last two holes.

Nerves appeared to beset Els when he drove into the trees and then found the water with his next shot, leaving Woods needing just a par to win.

The American duly stretched his winning record in play-offs to 12, with just the one loss.

"I've been in that situation enough times," said Woods. "I've had success coming from behind even going back to my US junior and amateur days.

"I've had a lot of positive experiences, so that helps a lot. You just rely on those memories sometimes to pull yourself out of it.

"You know that you've done this before, even in the worst circumstances and you've turned it around. There's no reason why you can't hang in there and turn this around as well.

"I've had success in play-offs. You're just trying to make birdie before your opponent does."

Woods, 30, paid tribute to his play-off opponent, who was laid up with a career-threatening knee injury for the bulk of 2005, before returning to win the Dunhill Championship on home turf in South Africa in December.

He said: "It's great to have Ernie back, period, because obviously he is one of the best players in the world and he had a significant injury.

"For him to return and play and then win early after his comeback is great. He's been playing great ever since and I knew that going into the final round.

"Ernie and the other guys had a chance to run away with it and they didn't. I kind of snuck in there at the end to get to the play-off.

"It was a day I was very proud of and I hung in there, made some key putts and some key saves. It's a pretty good feeling when you're able to do that."

Els had made a six-under-par 67, Woods a slightly inconsistent 69, but the pair would have been scrapping for second place if Richard Green, the 1997 Dubai champion, had not blown a one-shot lead at the last hole to end up in third place.

"These guys are so good," bemoaned the Australian, "Ernie is unreal and I knew I would need a couple of shots on him up the last hole to beat him. I just couldn't quite do enough."

Meanwhile ten years after Tiger Woods won his first professional event in his fifth start, fellow American John Holmes did it even quicker on Sunday.

The 23-year-old, playing in his fourth event, who last August helped the United States regain the Walker Cup and in December topped the US Tour qualifying school, romped to an amazing seven-stroke victory at the FBR Open in Scottsdale.

Against a field containing five of the world's top 10 Holmes shot a closing 66 to taste success in only the fourth start of his rookie season.

And, incredibly, the man ranked 464th in the world before the tournament is now in position to earn a Ryder Cup debut at the K Club in September. A week ago he was not even in the top 120 of the American points table.

One ahead with four holes to play, Holmes turned that into a six-shot advantage in the space of a few minutes.

He sank a 15-foot eagle putt on the long 15th while Ryan Palmer, who had been one in front after a front-nine 33, twice found water and then three-putted for a triple bogey eight.

Holmes then drove the green on the par four 17th with a three-wood, two-putted for birdie and parred the last after a drive of 354 yards to finish on 21 under par.

 

Woods’ win down to ‘experience’

By Neale Graham
A RELIEVED Tiger Woods believes his play-off experience made the difference against Ernie Els at the end of a nail-biting Dubai Desert Classic.

The world number one claimed his first victory in the Emirates at the third attempt after forcing a sudden-death head-to-head at the 18th with two birdies in his last two holes.

Nerves appeared to beset Els when he drove into the trees and then found the water with his next shot, leaving Woods needing just a par to win.

The American duly stretched his winning record in play-offs to 12, with just the one loss.

"I've been in that situation enough times," said Woods. "I've had success coming from behind even going back to my US junior and amateur days.

"I've had a lot of positive experiences, so that helps a lot. You just rely on those memories sometimes to pull yourself out of it.

"You know that you've done this before, even in the worst circumstances and you've turned it around. There's no reason why you can't hang in there and turn this around as well.

"I've had success in play-offs. You're just trying to make birdie before your opponent does."

Woods, 30, paid tribute to his play-off opponent, who was laid up with a career-threatening knee injury for the bulk of 2005, before returning to win the Dunhill Championship on home turf in South Africa in December.

He said: "It's great to have Ernie back, period, because obviously he is one of the best players in the world and he had a significant injury.

"For him to return and play and then win early after his comeback is great. He's been playing great ever since and I knew that going into the final round.

"Ernie and the other guys had a chance to run away with it and they didn't. I kind of snuck in there at the end to get to the play-off.

"It was a day I was very proud of and I hung in there, made some key putts and some key saves. It's a pretty good feeling when you're able to do that."

Els had made a six-under-par 67, Woods a slightly inconsistent 69, but the pair would have been scrapping for second place if Richard Green, the 1997 Dubai champion, had not blown a one-shot lead at the last hole to end up in third place.

"These guys are so good," bemoaned the Australian, "Ernie is unreal and I knew I would need a couple of shots on him up the last hole to beat him. I just couldn't quite do enough."

Meanwhile ten years after Tiger Woods won his first professional event in his fifth start, fellow American John Holmes did it even quicker on Sunday.

The 23-year-old, playing in his fourth event, who last August helped the United States regain the Walker Cup and in December topped the US Tour qualifying school, romped to an amazing seven-stroke victory at the FBR Open in Scottsdale.

Against a field containing five of the world's top 10 Holmes shot a closing 66 to taste success in only the fourth start of his rookie season.

And, incredibly, the man ranked 464th in the world before the tournament is now in position to earn a Ryder Cup debut at the K Club in September. A week ago he was not even in the top 120 of the American points table.

One ahead with four holes to play, Holmes turned that into a six-shot advantage in the space of a few minutes.

He sank a 15-foot eagle putt on the long 15th while Ryan Palmer, who had been one in front after a front-nine 33, twice found water and then three-putted for a triple bogey eight.

Holmes then drove the green on the par four 17th with a three-wood, two-putted for birdie and parred the last after a drive of 354 yards to finish on 21 under par.