| David Love III with the trophy after winning the world challenge golf on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, California. (AP)
Los Angeles: Davis Love fought off a spirited rally by Tiger Woods to capture the $5 million World Challenge golf tournament.
Trailing by 10 shots early in the final round, the five-time Player of the Year put the heat on by shooting a seven-under par 65. It was not quite enough as Love held for a two-shot victory in the unofficial event at Sherwood Country Club in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks.
Playing in cold, rainy conditions, he gave himself some breathing room by making a 45-foot uphill birdie putt on No. 16 for a two-shot advantage, then sank a short par putt on No. 18 after nearly holing a bunker shot.
“I had to start trying to make birdies again coming down the stretch just to get a cushion and I finally got one at No. 16,” said Love, who took home a first prize of $1.2 million.
“It was a difficult day. It was hard to control the ball and then it quit raining, but it got cold. My hands got cold and the ball didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Defending champion Padraig Harrington finished third in the exclusive 16-player field at 282, two shots ahead of Justin Leonard and Mike Weir, who tied for fifth.
Love, who led South Korea’s K.J. Choi by three strokes at the start of the day, signed for an even-par 72 to complete 72 holes at 11-under 277, winning this event for the second time in its five-year history.
Choi ballooned to a 5-over par 77, which matched the worst round of the day, and dropped to sixth, eight shots behind Love.
The win capped a rollercoaster season for Love, who was a finalist for Player of the Year honours after winning four times but also suffered through the suicide of his brother-in-law.
“Even though I’ve had two weeks off, I came out here to play to win, not just show up and collect a little money and go snowboarding,” Love said.
“I came to win and I worked hard to win.”
Woods, who began the round nine shots off the pace, did not think 65 would be enough to erase the huge deficit.
He did not win here but made his final round of the year a memorable one.
“(A) 65 was realistic but not to win,” he said. “I thought I had to at least hit the double digits.
“When I came out there on the golf course through nine I saw that Davis was at 13-under par, and I figured if I could shoot 29 on the back nine that would put me at least at 11-under and he’s got to work a little bit coming home.”
Woods could not get much going on the front but Love began to lose control, bogeying No. 10 and double-bogeying No. 12. Woods, meanwhile, began a streak of five straight birdies on the 11th hole. Woods claimed a tour-high five titles and finished second on the money list despite playing in only 18 events.