Tiger Woods eases to record victory

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Arizona, Febr 25: Tiger Woods romped to his eighth title in nine tournament appearances with a record 8&7 crushing of fellow American Stewart Cink in Sunday's final at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Four up after dominating the morning round, the world number one reeled off three consecutive birdies from the 24th hole before sealing victory with a sparkling approach to two feet for a conceded birdie on the 29th green. He piled up a remarkable 14 birdies in 29 holes to register his third triumph in 10 editions of the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) events and his sixth successive tournament win worldwide.

Woods, who had previously won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa in 2003 and 2004, shattered the record for the largest winning margin in the final. American David Toms beat compatriot Chris DiMarco 6&5 to claim the 2005 title, also at La Costa.

"Match play is very fickle and whatever your opponent does, you have to react," a smiling Woods said in a greenside interview after being presented with the coveted Walter Hagen Cup. "This week I made a bunch of birdies to advance. I had a great feel for the greens and, once I got the pace, they (the putts) kept falling."

Already arguably the greatest player in history, Woods has now clinched 15 WGC crowns in 26 starts since the series began in 1999. In claiming his 63rd PGA Tour title, he edged ahead of Arnold Palmer into fourth place in the all-time standings.

Only Sam Snead (82), Jack Nicklaus (73) and Ben Hogan (64) have won more. "I can't wait to see Arnie," said Woods, again flashing his trademark smile. "Just to be mentioned in the same breadth as Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan, you know you've had a pretty good career."

Woods was firmly in control after leading Cink four up after a sun-splashed morning and he tightened his grip with birdies on the first two holes in the afternoon at Dove Mountain's Gallery Golf Club. Although he surprisingly horseshoed out with a four-footer to bogey the par-five 23rd, Cink also faltered there by missing from six feet to remain five down.

Woods, in superb putting form for most of the week, then rammed in a 19-footer to birdie the 24th and go six up for the first time. At the par-four 25th, he got up and down from a greenside bunker for another birdie before hitting his tee shot to seven feet at the par-three 26th and holing the putt to go eight up.

Cink did well to drain a 15-footer at the 27th to save par and remain eight behind after missing the green to the left with his approach. He did even better on the next hole, coaxing in a 37-footer for an eagle-three before Woods lipped out with his own attempt from 35 feet.

Back to seven up, Woods sealed a runaway victory at the par-four 29th when he drove straight down the middle and hit his second shot to two feet. Cink missed his birdie attempt from 10 feet and conceded the match.

Woods, a 13-times major winner, had birdied six of the first 11 holes in the morning to go five up and set the tone for the day. Although Cink pegged him back with birdies at the 12th and 16th, Woods responded with a birdie at the par-five 17th before going into lunch four up after both players bogeyed 18.

In the consolation match played over one round, Sweden's Henrik Stenson beat American Justin Leonard 3&2 to secure third place.

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