CARLSBAD, Calif., March 2 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods fought off the challenge of a weary David Toms Sunday and captured the Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time, moving him into the top 10 on the PGA Tour's all-time victory list.
Woods took a 4-up lead after the morning 18 holes of the 36-hole title match and then hung on for a 2 & 1 victory -- his second of the season in three appearances.
Golf's No. 1 player won for the 36th time on the American tour in a career that spans only 6 1/2 years. That ties him for 10th place on the all-time win chart with Lloyd Mangrum. He needs two more to tie Gene Sarazen for ninth place and has 45 more to go to reach the record set by the late Sam Snead.
Toms was fortunate to have reached the final, having suffered food poisoning early in the week that brought about a four-hour stay at a local hospital. Toms, the 2001 PGA Championship winner, still managed to win his quarterfinal and semifinal matches Saturday and battled back against Woods Sunday.
But Toms was obviously fatigued at the end of the day as he walked slowly between shots in an attempt to conserve strength.
"I didn't really hit the ball all that great today and I missed a ton of putts," Woods said. "To come out on top, I'm very fortunate."
The top seed and world's No. 1 player also became the first man to win all four events in the World Golf Championships series.
"It's pretty cool to have all four," he said. "I'm extremely happy to have this one. It's the hardest (WGC event) to win because you've got to win six matches. It's physically grueling, but it's more mentally grueling because of the ebb and flow of match play.
"If we had to do this every week, I think every pro's playing career would be about 10 years. In a stroke-play event, you play your own game until probably the back nine on Sunday. Here, it's right out of the gate, so there's more of an emotional drain from each round. Every match has a little ebb and flow to it and it wears you out."
Woods owned a 4-up lead going to the eighth tee of the afternoon round, but bogeyed two holes in a row. And when Toms reached the green at the par-5 11th in two shots and made a birdie, he had narrowed the deficit to one hole.
Woods regained a 2-up lead at the 13th when his 10-foot birdie putt barely reached the hole and dropped in for a birdie, but Toms holed an eight-footer for birdie at the 15th to again draw within one.
The players halved the par-3 16th, but Toms put himself in instant trouble at the par-4 17th when he drove into the right rough behind a group of tall trees. Woods drove into the fairway, but he put his second shot over the green into a bunker, giving Toms hopes that he could survive the hole with a halve or maybe even win it to even the match.
Needing to hook his second shot around one of the trees, Toms overhooked it left of the green into rough so deep he could barely see the ball. From there, Toms could barely hack the ball out of its thick lie onto the fringe of the green.
Woods blasted from the bunker to within four feet and when Toms could not hole his putt from the edge of the putting surface, Woods had only to make his short putt to win the match.
"David missed a ton of putts early, which is unlike him," Woods said of his Ryder Cup teammate. "And this afternoon, if I had made a couple more putts, I could have blown it wide open."
"I had to play the best golfer in the world and I didn't have much golf this morning," Toms said. "I didn't play well and got down too far to come back. I didn't want to get embarrassed on national TV and the last 18 holes I played extremely well. If I'd played this morning like I did this afternoon, I think I would have won."
Two weeks into the 2003 tour season, Woods became the third player to win twice, joining Ernie Els and Mike Weir. There have not been three different two-time winners this early in a tuor season in 48 years.
Lonard overcame a 3-down deficit in the quarterfinals to beat Robert Allenby and rallied from the same hole to briefly draw even with Toms in the semifinals before Toms recorded a 1-up victory.
In his march to the championship, Woods defeated Carl Petterson, K.J. Choi, Stephen Leaney, Scott Hoch, Adam Scott and Toms. Ernie Els, the world's second-ranked player, lost in the first round to Phil Tataurangi and No. 3 Phil Mickelson made an exit in the third round against Jerry Kelly.
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