Woods ready for time off after loss

Wednesday, August 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PALM DESERT, Calif. – Tiger Woods stretched himself to the limit, and lost.

Not just to Sergio Garcia in Monday night's made-for-television event. He also surrendered to a body that finally caught up with the stress of three straight weeks of being Tiger.

The result was not so evident on the course, where Woods shot a 67 to lose to Garcia by one hole, but later as he wearily answered a few questions before finally calling it a night.

"I've had three pretty good weeks. The last few months have been good to me," Woods said. "It builds up. My body just broke down a couple days short."

Woods headed for some much-deserved time off after a whirlwind nine days that saw him win the PGA Championship in a thriller, the NEC Invitational in a walk and fail by a hole to win $1.1 million against Garcia.

He may play next month in the Canadian Open, though that's not certain. After that, nothing until the Presidents Cup in mid-October.

Woods battled flu-like symptoms the last day of the NEC and against Garcia, complaining to his caddie on the 17th hole Monday night at Bighorn Golf Club that he was freezing on a warm desert evening.

He had won in darkness in Akron, Ohio Sunday night, and given a golf clinic the next morning. Then he hopped on his jet to the desert, three hours behind Akron and the East Coast prime time for ABC.

"I wish I could have felt just a bit better," Woods said.

Even though the win was not official, Garcia reacted as if he had won a major championship himself.

After sinking the 10-footer for birdie to close Woods out on the final hole, he raised his arms in victory and his mother ran onto the green to hug him. For a player who has struggled all year after a promising rookie season, it was a special moment indeed.

"It was very exciting," Garcia said. "I think we both played very well. He's by far the best golfer in the world right now."

Garcia's win came under the lights, which were set up on the final four holes, lending the affair an almost surreal aura.

Because of cloud cover and a late start, the 14th hole was played almost in darkness, with Garcia making a putt from off the green using light from the nearby 15th to try and see the hole.

"It felt like a good putt, but I couldn't see the hole," Garcia said.

Garcia made a 35-footer on 16 to take the lead for good, and withstood a near chip-in by Woods on 18 to make the winning birdie putt.