Woods makes victorious 2006 debut with playoff win at Buick Invitational

Monday, January 30, 2006

A new decade for Tiger Wood brought back some familiar images.

Stalking the 18th green at Torrey Pines, he sized up the 8 feet of grass between his ball and the cup, a putt he simply had to make to get into a playoff Sunday. Then came that pounding of the fist when it dropped for birdie, matching the longest putt he made all weekend.

And when the Buick Invitational in San Diego ended somberly, there was Woods holding another trophy.

Returning from the longest self-imposed break of his career, the 30-year-old Woods began his 10th full season on the PGA Tour with clutch shots down the stretch and two pars in a playoff to outlast two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and Australian rookie Nathan Green.

Woods' only regret was how it ended.

Olazabal played a splendid bunker shot on the par-3 16th to 4 feet, but missed the par putt on the second playoff hole. Woods closed his eyes and briefly bowed his head, bringing back another familiar scene.

His last PGA Tour win was the American Express Championship four months ago at Harding Park, where John Daly missed a 3-foot par putt on the second extra hole.

"You don't ever take pleasure out of seeing your friends do that," Woods said. "I would have felt fired up if I made the putt in the playoff for birdie on 18 and ended it right there, but not when a friend of mine misses a short one."

Still, Woods, who shot 72 on Sunday, could not have asked for a better start to a new season.

Improving his playoff record to 12-1 worldwide, Woods became the first four-time winner of the Buick Invitational and won in his season debut for the fourth time in 10 years.

So ended a dynamic afternoon along the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean, where a dozen players had a share of the lead at one point and eight players shared the lead with six holes to play.

Olazabal was the first to reach 10-under 278 with a two-putt birdie on the 18th for a 69. Green, who made two crucial par saves in only his second PGA Tour event, holed a nervy 7-footer for birdie for a 72.

Woods never expected a chance, not after three-putting three times and getting fooled by the speed of the greens on a South Course where he has played since he was 12.

But in 10 years and 47 career victories, he doesn't miss many putts with so much on the line.

"I shouldn't have even been in the playoff," Woods said, surprised that none of the other 11 players atop the leaderboard ran off with a string of birdies. "Of all the things that happened today, I kept saying, 'At least you have a chance.' I flipped it around, turned it into a positive situation. It felt good coming off the putter and found its way to the bottom."

Champions Tour

Loren Roberts completed a two-week Hawaiian sweep, holing a 9-foot eagle putt on the final hole for an even-par 72 and a two-stroke victory over Scott Simpson in the Turtle Bay Championship in Kahuku, Hawaii.

The 50-year-old Roberts, the first Champions Tour player to win his first two starts of a season since Larry Nelson in 2001, finished his wire-to-wire win with a 12-under 204 total. Last week, Roberts had a record-setting, one-stroke victory in the season-opening MasterCard Championship on the Big Island.

Japan's Isao Aoki shot a 70 to finish third at 9-under 207. Don Pooley (71), second last week in the MasterCard, and Tom Watson (68) tied for fourth at 8 under.

-- From wire reports

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: