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A world slam for Tiger

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The idea behind the World Golf Championships was to bring together the best players from every tour on every continent.

Tiger Woods remains in a world all his own.

The final trophy in his collection of world titles came Sunday at La Costa when Woods captured the Match Play Championship with some dramatic moments that he could have done without.

Woods expected a gutsy comeback from David Toms.

What he never imagined was a bee landing in front of the hole and knocking a pivotal birdie putt off line. Equally surprising were his own mistakes under pressure, which made him toil longer that he wanted.

"This was one tough week," Woods said.

Next up: A two-week break.

Woods decided to skip the Dubai Desert Classic and $2 million in appearance money, saying it was too close to Iraq and not safe enough for him to travel.

"Going overseas in this particular year, right now, especially in that part of the world, is a little tough for me," he said.

He finished off Toms on the 35th hole, hitting a 7-iron 195 yards — it was only supposed to go 188 yards — and saving par from the bunker to win 2 and 1.

Woods never trailed the entire day.

He played 112 holes over six rounds, the fewest among any winner in the five-year history of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

That didn't make it any easier.

Woods built a 4-up lead after the morning round, increased it to as many as five holes and then had to grind as hard as ever to claim his first match-play title as a professional.

"This is the hardest to win," Woods said. "Yeah, it's physically grueling, but I think it's more mentally grueling because of the ebb and flow of match play. If we had to do this every week, every pro's playing career would be about 10 years."

Toms, a former PGA champion who squeezes everything from his game until it's time to stop playing, gave Woods a battle that no one expected.

Woods was relentless from the start, belting his drives long and straight to apply enormous pressure on Toms. Woods frequently drove the ball 25 yards past Toms, and his approach into 5 feet for birdie on No. 1 — the 19th hole of the match — put him 5 up.

"I'm not going to quit," Toms said. "That's not my nature. We're on national TV and I wanted to last a long time. I didn't want to be embarrassed. When he got 5 up, I just had to dig deep and not give in."

Woods promptly hit into 8 feet for a birdie chance on the next hole, and it looked as though the rout was on.

Instead, Toms rolled in a birdie putt from 35 feet to win the hole, then won the next with a 10-foot birdie as Woods took three putts for par from 40 feet.

Woods must have figured the odds were stacked against him. Trying to make a 15-foot birdie putt to win the fourth hole in the afternoon and regain momentum, he looked up after his putt and saw a bee land in front of the cup.

The ball rolled over the bee and hopped slightly, just enough to throw it off line. Woods settled for par, and spared the bee.

"I didn't kill it. I sure thought about it, though," he said. "I'm sure the animal rights society would have gotten on me."

It couldn't have done more harm than Woods wanted to inflict on himself. Having played 102 holes with only two bogeys, he promptly bogeyed two in a row.

The first was a 5-foot par putt that rimmed around the cup. The second was a 4-iron that sailed right of the ninth green (27th hole) into deep rough.

"Giving him those holes back-to-back like that with bogeys ... you just can't do that in match play," Woods said.

He should know.

Woods was the master of match play before turning pro, winning three straight U.S. Junior Amateur titles and three straight U.S. Amateurs.

He was 0-4 as a professional — stronger fields have something to do with that — but he didn't forget the strategy, not to mention timing, that brought him so much success.

Having badly missed a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 11 — his lead down to 1 up — Woods realized his shoulders were not aligned properly. He hit a few practice putts, then faced a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole.

"I said, 'You did the work two holes ago, go ahead and trust it.' And I poured it right in the middle," Woods said.

Another birdie by Toms on the 15th brought him within one hole, but he came up short on the par-3 16th and had to scramble for par, then lost any hope with a drive into rough and an approach shot that was buried in deep grass left of the green.

"When he plays good, he wins. We all know that," Toms said.

Woods won for the 36th time on the PGA Tour and earned $1,050,000. He took two months off because of knee surgery, and in the three weeks Woods has been back he's won twice and tied for fifth.

He also became the first player to win all four World Golf Championships since their inception in 1999 — three times the NEC Invitational at Firestone, twice the American Express Championship and the 2000 World Cup with David Duval.

"They're all different in their own right," Woods said. "But I'm extremely happy to win this one. It's pretty cool."

CHRYSLER CLASSIC OF TUCSON: At Tucson, Ariz., Frank Lickliter II withstood the wind, rain, a charge by Chad Campbell and a shot into the water off the 18th tee for a two-stroke victory in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.

Lickliter, who began the day with a four-shot lead over Campbell and Steve Flesch, shot a final round 3-under-par 69 to finish at 19-under 269. It was his second PGA victory and first since he began a drastic overhaul of his swing 18 months ago.

Former BYU golfer Andy Miller finished in a tie for fourth.

Lickliter clinched it with an amazing 5-iron shot to the 18th green that landed 4 feet from the pin.

Campbell, runner-up for the second time in his two seasons on the PGA Tour, pulled into a tie with Lickliter at 19 under with three holes to play, but bogeyed the 16th and 18th to finish at 17-under 171. Campbell moved into contention with a 9-under 63 on Saturday, then had a final round 5-under 67.

Brenden Pappas shot a 68 on Sunday to take third at 16-under 272.