Woods given fright over closing holes

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The Independent Online

It is rare for Tiger Woods to win a tournament while stumbling over the line but where the world No 1 differed from his opponents on the back nine of the final round of the AmEx World Championship was that he did not fall flat on his face.

Tiger won despite bogeying the last two holes and returning his only over-par round of the week, a 72, which was still good enough for a two-stroke victory over Vijay Singh, Tim Herron and Stuart Appleby at the Capital City Club.

Until Woods collected the first-place cheque for $632,000 (£380,000), Singh was leading the United States money list but could not make a birdie after the seventh. From the 14th hole, Herron finished bogey, bogey, bogey, birdie, bogey.

"This is the way it should be," Woods said, not of his performance, but of the hardness of the greens on the Crabapple course which led to major-type conditions. "It is so much work when you have to play a course this difficult," Tiger added. "It was like a US Open where you are stressed on every shot."

It was Woods' fifth win of the season but his first since July, which meant that Steve Williams, his New Zealander caddie, had been waiting to chalk up his 100th "victory". Before his present employer, Williams had worked for other multiple winners such as Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Ray Floyd.

"Steve has been so much a part of my success," Woods said. "We have won seven majors together and I was trying to get his 100th at a major, which was one of the reasons the Open was so disappointing when I had a chance on the last day."

Ernie Els almost clinched the European order of merit for the first time and in succession to back-to-back victories for his countryman, Retief Goosen, but Darren Clarke can still just overtake the South African with victories at both the Madrid Open and the Volvo Masters.

Els has won six times in all this year, twice on the US Tour, twice in Australia - which both counted towards the European Tour - the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and the European Masters in Switzerland.

Although he has always kept up playing in Europe since he joined the US Tour 10 years ago, Els has never played more around the globe than this year. It is something that is unlikely to happen to the same extent again as his family grows up.

His main base outside South Africa will remain at Wentworth, however, so although he may concentrate on the American circuit in the future he will still play in Europe.

"I've paid my dues," Els said. "I've played everywhere on the European Tour as well as in America. I'm almost the only guy who does that and I've been doing it for 10 years. If I win the order of merit this year it will be nice because I am getting towards the end of my term in regards to flying all around the world.

"The family's getting older so it would be good to win it now. I said right from the get-go it's not one of the goals I've chosen in my career but it would be great if it came around."

The only disappointment for Els this year is that he has not taken his best form into the majors and often found himself battling back from a poor start. "We'll take stock at the end of the year," he said. Els is planning seven weeks off after a hectic end to the season.

He will be defending his title at the revamped HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth next week, then plays the US Tour Championship before heading home to South Africa for the Presidents Cup, which for the first time pitches an International team excluding Europeans against America.