Cypress' Woods on a Different Level : He Wins Unprecedented Fourth Junior World Boys' Title

In the 22nd Optimist Junior World Championship, where prodigies are the norm, Eldrick Woods of Cypress is above the rest of the best.

If it is possible to reach legendary status before the age of 14, perhaps he has done it.

Thursday at Balboa Park, Woods won his fourth Junior World title, more than any other boy.

The Tiger, as he is known, is still a pussycat at 13. He still has four more years to play in this tournament, which is the largest junior event in the world with 733 golfers from 33 countries.

"He's a great player, the best (junior) player I've ever seen," said Laguna Niguel's Scott Richardson, who finished second at 219 to Woods' par 216.

Minutes before the boys' title was decided, Eunice Choi of San Clemente won the girls' 13-14 division championship, tying the 54-hole record of 225. In doing so, she joined some pretty good company. Amy Alcott set the mark in 1970, and it was equaled in 1985 by Tina Trimble.

Choi, who began the day five strokes ahead of Jeong Park of Alameda, said she had a chance at breaking the record but opted to play conservatively so as not to blow the tournament. She finished with a two-over-par 74, her best round of the week.

Carmelette Villaroman of the Philippines finished with a 174 in the girls' 11-12 division at Singing Hills, breaking the existing record of 177 set by Marty Stewart in 1973. Villaroman, who came in third last year, shot 57s Tuesday and Thursday, both tying the single-round record of Stewart (1973) and Carolyn Hill (1971). Stewart and Hill set their marks at Mission Bay.

In the boys' 11-12 division at Singing Hills, Andrew Wen of Guam shot a two-under 56 to defeat the Philippines' Juan Rocha, 169-170. Wen and Rocha were tied at 56 after Tuesday's first round, and Rocha held a one-stroke lead, 112-113, going into Thursday.

Boyd Summerhays of Farmington, Utah, won the boys' 10-and-under division at Presidio Hills, finishing with a 162, five strokes ahead of Mike Chavez of Santa Barbara.

Elisa Au of Kamuela, Hawaii, won her second consecutive girls' 10-and-under championship with a 175, two strokes ahead of Natalie Nakamura of Hilo, Hawaii. San Diego's Angie Yoon finished third at 184.

After three rounds in the 15-17 division, Kazuyoshi Yonekura of Japan leads Matt Todd of Visalia and Mickey Claxton of Macon, Ga., by four strokes, and Brandie Burton of Rialto leads the girls by five over Nicole Horner of Mililani, Hawaii. Burton and Horner finished one-two in 1987. The 15-17 final rounds are today at Torrey Pines at 7 a.m.

In the 22-year history of the Junior World, there have been only four boys to win three championships. Spring Valley's Sharon Barrett, who won four, is the only girl to win more than two.

But winning titles has become commonplace for Woods. He said he first started swinging a club when he was 1. At 4, he entered his first tournament and won despite being the youngest competitor.

When he was 5, he appeared on "That's Incredible." "They filmed me in a tournament, (Fran Tarkenton) interviewed me and had me hit plastic balls into the crowd," he said.

The next year, Woods began playing in the Junior World. At 6 and 7, he finished eighth and sixth. The next two years, he won his first two championships in the 10-and-under division, and he finished second when he was 10.

Moving up to 11-12 in 1987, Woods finished tied for ninth. "I got intimidated," he said. "The kids got a lot bigger." But in 1988, he won again, coming from two strokes back on the final day.

Woods led Richardson by only a stroke heading into Thursday's final 18 holes. But he took control early with three birdies on the first three holes. After three pars, he bogeyed three of the next four holes, then finished strong with eight consecutive pars for a par 72.

"I gambled the first three holes," Woods said. "After that, I just played to the center of the greens."

Asked what club he favored, Woods responded, "My putter." Woods putted just seven times on the first six holes. He finished with only 27.

"He was making a lot of clutch putts," Richardson said. "He's the greatest putter I've ever seen."

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