Woods crushes first-round foe

Thursday, February 23, 2006

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Arms crossed, staring into the soul of his opponent, Tiger Woods looked as though he was wrapped up in one of those nerve-racking moments that define the Match Play Championship.

Far, far from it.

Ruthless to the end until his name was in the record books Wednesday, Woods won the first nine holes -- seven of them with birdies -- and closed out Stephen Ames as early as mathematically possible, 9 and 8.

"It's been a while since I played one like that," Woods said with a smile.

He didn't have to look far for motivation.

Ames was on the practice range Monday afternoon when he was asked if he would take a carefree attitude into his match against the No. 1 player in the world because not many expected him to win. Ames shook his head.

"Anything can happen," Ames said, breaking into a big smile. "Especially where he's hitting the ball."

Woods apparently took his comments seriously. As he climbed into a van behind the 10th green after halving the hole with pars, he was asked if he had seen what Ames said.

"Yes."

Did it motivate him?

"Yes."

Ames never had a chance.

"Tiger played exceptionally well," Ames said.

"If he continues playing the way he's playing, he should walk away with this -- easily," he added.

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