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Mon 25 Feb 2008 08:44 AM

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Tiger routs Cink for Match Play title

Tiger Woods has moved past Arnold Palmer into fourth on the all-time win list.

Tiger Woods won his third World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship crown Sunday, routing Stewart Cink 8 and 7 to move past Arnold Palmer into fourth on the all-time win list.

Top-ranked Woods dominated the 36-hole final for his sixth worldwide triumph in a row and fourth consecutive US PGA Tour victory. His global run includes victories last month at Torrey Pines and three weeks ago at Dubai.

Woods, a 13-time major champion chasing Jack Nicklaus' career major record of 18, won his 63rd career title to pass Palmer on the all-time PGA win list and move within one victory of matching third-place Ben Hogan.

"Just to be in the same breath as Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan, you know you've had a pretty good career," Woods said.

"I can't wait to see Arnie," Woods added, looking forward to teasing the legend known as "The King".

Sam Snead leads the list with 82 titles and Nicklaus is next at 73 but Woods, 32, is on pace to move past them if he can continue to dominate as he did at this eight million-dollar event.

The victory margin was the most lopsided in a final in the event's 10-year history, surpassing a 6-and-5 triumph by David Toms over Chris DiMarco in 2005.

"I made a couple putts. It's just one of those things," Woods said. "Match play is very fickle. Whatever your opponent does, you have to react. I had a great touch on the greens this week. I was reading them well."

Woods had 51 birdies, counting concession putts, in 117 holes for the week.

"I was having to make birdies to advance," Woods said. "You have the best players in the world assembled here. They're not going to let you back in the match if you play yourself out of it.

"I had to go out and earn it."

Woods became the first man with a four-event PGA win streak for a third time in his career. The only other player to achieve the feat twice was Byron Nelson from 1945 and 1946.

Woods, whose 1.35 million-dollar top prize gives him 77.8 million dollars in career winnings, has now won 15 WGC tournaments, dominating the select events matching elite PGA fields. He also won the 2003 and 2004 WGC Match Play titles.

The 18.5 million dollars Woods has made in WGC events alone would put him in the top 25 among all-time money winners.

After both men opened with a birdie, Woods birdied to win the second and par-5 fifth holes and won the seventh with a birdie as well. Then Woods took a 4-up lead when first-time Match Play finalist Cink took a bogey at the eighth.

Another bogey for Cink left Woods 5-up after 11 but Cink won his first hole by sinking a five-foot birdie putt at the 12th, his first birdie since the opening hole, to trim his deficit to 4-down.

Cink birdied the par-3 16th to pull closer but Woods tapped in a short birdie putt at the par-5 17th to reclaim a 4-up edge after the first 18 holes.

Woods matched his biggest lead at 5-up with a tap-in birdie on his second trip to the second hole and missed a chance to win the fifth when a four-foot par putt lipped out to halve.

Woods dropped a 20-foot birdie putt to win the sixth and a five-foot birdie to win the seventh, then followed with a birdie at the par-3 eighth to move 8-up with 10 holes remaining.

Cink sank a long putt at the 10th with a mock fist pump to win the hole and cut the deficit to 7-down, but only after Woods lipped out his long putt to halve the hole.

The end came at the 11th when Woods rolled his approach to a stop two feet from the cup. Cink gave Woods the putt, then missed his own birdie putt to halve the hole, giving Woods the victory in the all-American final.

The easy finish was a stark contrast to how Woods began the 64-man event, trailing 3-down with five holes to play before rallying to beat J.B. Holmes in the first round.

Cink pocketed a runner-up prize of 800,000 dollars.

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