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12/04/2011

Dramatic birdie on 18th hole earns Woods the win

Tiger Woods used birdies on the 17th and 18th holes to win his fifth Chevron World Challenge
Tiger hoists the championship trophy. Gary Newkirk, Tiger Woods Foundation Tiger hoists the championship trophy.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Saving his best for last, Tiger Woods snapped a two-year victory drought Sunday by winning the 13th Chevron World Challenge with a dramatic six-foot birdie putt on the final hole, edging Zack Johnson by one stroke.

Woods' 83rd worldwide win and fifth in the Chevron World Challenge was especially satisfying, given the personal and health problems he has had to overcome. His last victory came on Nov. 15, 2009 at the Australian Masters, a span of 749 days and 26 official events.

"It feels awesome," said Woods, who tipped his black hat to the adoring crowd behind the 18th green, then bear-hugged new caddie Joe LaCava.

Woods closed with a 3-under-par 69 and finished at 10-under 278.

Johnson shot 71 and wound up one shot back, while Paul Casey took third at 283.

Johnson, who started the final round with a one-stroke lead, gave Woods all he could handle on Sunday in what essentially turned out to be match play between the two. Johnson trailed by two strokes with seven holes remaining, but caught Woods with a birdie at 13, then took the lead with another birdie at the par-5 16th hole.

Both players hit nice tee shots to the uphill par-3 17th. Johnson just missed his birdie attempt from 19 feet and Woods buried his from 16 feet to pull even. That set up an exciting final-hole finish for the $1.2 million first prize.

Both players hit good drives on the downhill par-4, and Johnson applied pressure by hitting his second shot 15 feet to the right of the pin. Knowing he needed to answer, Woods calmly knocked his second shot over the flag and the ball backed up six feet behind the cup.

When Johnson missed, Woods had victory within his grasp and seized the moment, his speedy, right-to-left putt tracking into the center of the cup. The crowd erupted and Woods was a winner again.

"It was incredible to have them out here," Woods said of the fans. "I think everyone enjoyed it."

Johnson wasn't thrilled with the outcome but played his heart out.

"He made two great putts," he said of Woods. "You just tip your cap. I'm proud of how I handled the situation and continued to fight."

Coming into the tournament, Woods had donated all of his previous earnings from the event -- more than $7.5 million -- back to the Tiger Woods Foundation, and he did so again with Sunday's check.