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Tiger wins Players for 2nd straight victory

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Forget the slump and bring on the Masters. Tiger Woods held off a late charge from Vijay Singh on Monday to capture The Players Championship, his second straight victory after early season doubts.

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 two shots ahead of Masters winner Singh to take one of the few golf prizes he didn't already own.

The victory "means my slump's over," said Woods, the unquestioned favorite at Augusta National in two weeks.

Woods had his second straight 66 and was at 15-under 273. 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.

But 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.

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 in two putts for the victory and the $1,080,000 first prize.

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 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.

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.

Kelly, a stroke behind when play stopped Sunday, opened by driving into a left-side bunker off the fairway and missed a birdie putt before Woods tapped in for a two-shot lead.

LPGA NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP: Annika Sorenstam finished off a 3-under-par 69 with a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Nabisco Championship, capping a remarkable streak of golf with her first major since winning her second straight U.S. Open title in 1996.

EMERALD COAST CLASSIC: Mike McCullough beat Andy North on the first hole of a playoff in the Emerald Coast Classic.

McCullough two-putted for par on the par-4 18th hole in the playoff, while North narrowly missed a 20-foot par putt after hitting his tee shot into a bunker.

McCullough and North shot 5-under 65s for 10-under 200 totals on The Moors course. Jim Ahern finished third at 203.