Don't Call It A Comeback

Actress Jane Alexander attends the Roundabout Theatre Company's Spring Gala 2006 at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers April 3, 2006 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
GETTY IMAGES/Evan Agostini
Forget the slump and bring on the Masters.

Tigers Woods couldn't help raising his own season start after holding off Vijay Singh's late charge to win The Players Championship for his second straight victory.

Woods said people had been writing and talking about his slump when he went through his first seven starts this year without a victory.

"Obviously, they don't understand the game that well," he said. "Now I've won two in a row and they'll go write about something else."

Like maybe how Woods is the favorite for his fourth straight major at Augusta National in two weeks. "I feel as if I'm headed in the right direction," he said. "It's nice to see the changes I made in my game pay off."

Woods lost a duel with Hal Sutton in a similar Monday finish a year ago. This time, Woods didn't need much fight to finish a shot ahead of Masters winner Singh to take one of the few golf prizes he didn't already own.

Woods had a 67 and was at 14-under 274. Singh had a 68. Bernhard Langer was two shots back after a 67. Little known Jerry Kelly had a 73 and was four off of Woods.

There wasn't much magic in Woods' round, certainly none to match his twisting 60-footer for birdie on No. 17's island green Saturday or the 90-foot eagle chip on the second hole Sunday that first gave him the lead. It didn't matter as each challenge faltered.

Woods, who won the U.S. Amateur here at 18 years old in 1994, was pressed a bit when Singh recovered from a triple bogey on the 14th hole to go eagle-birdie on Nos. 16 and 17.

And moments after Singh hit his 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th, Woods tapped in for birdie on the 16th hole he barely lipped out a 50-foot eagle putt to restore his lead to two shots.

"Sometimes those scoreboards can be wrong," Woods said of Singh's error. "I thought I've got a lot of trouble ahead and knew I had to make some birdies."

Woods scared the crowd and himself at the island hole, flying a 9-iron right of the flag that spun perilously close to the water. But like everything Monday, it settled into the rough and Woods left with par.

"I executed the shot just the way I wanted to, it slid a bit more in the wind," Woods said.

On the 18th, where Woods was in the water Saturday, he drove into the rough, chipped out and got down for a two-putt bogey to win $1,080,000.

Singh, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident who regularly practices at the TPC at Sawgrass' Stadium Course, seemed to have the most motivation and the sharpest game to chase Woods down. Singh's Masters victory was almost lst as Woods fashioned one of golf's most amazing years with nine victories, including the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

At last year's President's Cup, Singh caused a stir when his caddie wore a hat with "Tiger Who?"

Singh tied things at 13-under with his 4-footer for birdie on the 13th hole. But Woods made his own birdie moments later on the 12th hole for a one-stroke lead.

Singh's chances ended for good, like so many on Pete Dye's famous course, in the water.

His drive on the 14th hole was a wild swing that headed left into the water. It was probably the worst stroke all week for Singh.

Singh threw down his driver in disgust, kicking it before hitting again. He left with a triple-bogey-7 his worst score of the week.

He got as close as two shots to Woods after an improbable eagle on the 16th hole. Singh turned his putter sideways and used the toe to pop the ball off the bulkhead and into the cup.

He followed with his birdie on No. 17 as Woods looked across to the patch of land that is the course's signature hole.

Singh had a putt of about 35 feet for birdie on the final hole, but sent it 10 feet past and made par.

"I made one bad swing and that's all it takes," Singh said.

Singh said he'll spend the rest of the week here working on his game before heading to Augusta and, hopefully, matching up with Woods again. "I think the whole game is in tune right now, and I just need to not make dumb mistakes like I did today."

Langer hasn't won in the United States since the 1993 Masters and looked unlikely to challenge, especially after missing a par putt on the 10th hole on his first stroke when play resumed. Rain delayed the start of Sunday's round and play was suspended by darkness.

He made two straight birdies on the 11th and 12th holes and was only two back of Woods. But Langer truly couldn't find the consistency to keep up he had five birdies and three bogeys.

Kelly, paired with Woods, would've been the tournament's most amazing story. The 34-year-old Kelly never has won in 175 PGA Tour events and suddenly was matched with Woods in the $6 million tournament. But he never got enough of a charge going and finished four shots back.

Kelly, despite his good play, says he won't leave happy. "Good check, good week, so what?" he said. "I guess I did prove to a few people that I could play. But I didn't think I had to prove it to myself."

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