Love, not moneyFor Target champ, it was all about winning, respect
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- For a while, it looked as if Tiger Woods was writing a new chapter in his own extraordinary legend. Just one problem: To make it happen, he was going to need Davis Love III to roll over and play dead.
Sure, it's not the Masters or the U.S. Open. It's just the Target World Challenge, a post-season boondoggle of a tournament where they give away big money to everybody in the field.
But for Love, it had nothing to do with money, even though this first prize of $1.2 million US is one of the biggest paydays of the golf season.
No, this was all about self-respect.
At one point in the proceedings yesterday, Woods trailed Love by 10 shots with only 10 holes to play at Sherwood Country Club. Six holes later, Woods had closed to within a solitary stroke of Love, combining an incredible stretch of five consecutive birdies with some loose play on Love's part.
"It's not world ranking points and it's not official money, but when you're out there, you simply want to win," Love said. "Especially when you have a lead like I did. To lose under those circumstances would have been hard to swallow.
"You still get nervous because there's pride on the line. Tiger's going to give his money away to charity, I assume, as he always does at this event. So what's his motivation to shoot 65 today? Because he wants to win."
In the end, with Woods already in the clubhouse at nine-under-par after his 65 yesterday, Love took a one-stroke lead into the final three holes. He slammed the door on a Woods comeback by nailing a 40-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole, then made a couple of routine pars coming in to win by two at 11-under-par.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington finished third at six-under, while Canadian Mike Weir and Justin Leonard shared fourth place at four-under.
Weir was again clearly frustrated and, even though he collected $317,500, felt that he had underperformed.
"I just didn't putt well at all," he said. "I got off to a good start today (three consecutive birdies) but couldn't keep it together."
Love began the day with a three-shot lead on K.J. Choi and six on Harrington. Woods was nine shots behind. But when Love made his birdie putt to go to 13-under at the fifth hole, Woods was in the process of making a bogey-four at the par-three eighth to fall to three-under. Love had a 10-stroke lead on Woods, though several players were a few strokes closer.
Then Woods went on a tear, passed all the others and zeroed in on Love. He birdied the ninth, the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th. Meanwhile, Love missed putts inside four feet at the seventh and again at the ninth and all of a sudden that 10-stroke advantage had been reduced to two in a matter of five holes.
Finally, at the 11th, Love stopped the bleeding, draining a five-foot birdie putt to regain a three-stroke cushion.
That lasted a matter of minutes. At the par-three 12th, Love scuffed it around for a double-bogey five. By this time he knew that Tiger was tracking him down and had to be figuring that Woods would make at least birdie at the par-five 16th. Unknown to Love, Woods hit his tee shot into a lateral water hazard and had to make a 22-foot par putt to avoid a bogey. The lead was down to one.
For all practical purposes, Love's clutch putt at the 16th ended the drama and defused all the pressure he'd been feeling.
"It was a trying day," said Love. "It grabbed me pretty hard. I was going along okay and all of a sudden I was in a golf tournament."
In the end, though, he kept himself out of Tiger's memoires. To him that was almost as important as the cheque.