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Woods or Toms Will Meet His Match Today

Times Staff Writer

Tiger and Toms? On paper, it looks like some sort of tag-team wrestling match, but it’s actually Tiger Woods and David Toms in the final of the $6-million Accenture Match Play Championship, which is fortunate to retain half of the star billing it craved.

Woods did his part to reach today’s 36-hole final at La Costa, even if Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson fell by the wayside early. It took 19 holes Saturday for Woods to knock off Adam Scott, who missed a three-foot putt and bogeyed the last hole.

So Woods will take on Toms, who birdied the last hole to defeat Peter Lonard, 1 up, despite still recovering from a bout with food poisoning that slowed him in his third-round match Friday.

Woods was asked where he would advise Toms to eat dinner.

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“Microwave,” Woods said.

Through five matches, Woods has been doing some serious cooking. He had five birdies and not a single bogey Saturday, which means he has played 77 holes with only one bogey.

“That’s not bad, is it?” Woods said.

Actually, it’s not, said Toms, who missed three short putts on the back side that allowed Lonard to catch up. But when the match reached the 18th, Toms made sure he didn’t miss another. He simply tried a slightly longer one, this time from 10 feet, that finally ended it.

Because he must face the top-ranked Woods next, Toms said he simply hopes to play his best.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I guess the worst I can do is second place.”

And that’s worth $600,000, with the winner making $1,050,000. Lonard and Scott play in the consolation match, worth $480,000 to the winner and $390,000 to the other.

Also, for the first time in its five-year history, the match play final features two players ranked in the top 10 -- Toms, the 2001 PGA champion, is No. 8.

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Scott is a 22-year-old Australian who employs a carbon copy of Woods’ swing. It’s something from Scott’s youth, said Woods, not because they both work with swing coach Butch Harmon. Woods spent one day working with Harmon in Las Vegas before playing at Torrey Pines, while Scott says he spent half of last week practicing with Harmon.

As for matching up with Woods, Scott said it was a great deal of fun, even if he wishes the outcome had been different.

“The nerves were gone as soon as I got off the first tee and I felt I lifted my game for the occasion, but he is just that good,” Scott said. “I gave him a good shot anyway.”

It appeared that Woods would close out Scott without having to go to extra holes. At the par-three 16th, Woods swung his eight-iron and delivered the ball to about 15 inches from the pin for a conceded birdie. But Scott made a 12-footer for birdie to stay only one down.

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“That was huge,” Woods said. “He just buried it.”

Scott did it again at the 17th after Woods had driven into the right rough, then managed to send the ball to the fringe at the back of the green. Scott two-putted for par from 35 feet, the second putt never wavering from its line six feet away. Woods kept pace with his own five-footer for par and led, 1 up, going into the last hole.

Woods, forced to play the 18th hole for the first time all week, lost it after he drove into the left rough. Scott’s bunker shot from a tough stance and three-foot birdie putt evened the match.

They moved to No. 10 for the first extra hole.

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Scott, who had driven into the right rough, reached the green, 30 feet from the pin. Woods was a foot closer. Scott’s putt missed to the right and rolled three feet past the hole, then Woods sent his putt four feet past the hole on the left.

But after Woods made his putt, Scott didn’t. He said he thought his ball rolled over a heel print or something else on the green. Woods was sympathetic.

“It was tough,” he said. “It’s unfortunate the way it ended for Adam. I didn’t want to see him do that.”

Woods got through his morning quarterfinal in bogey-free fashion and ousted Scott Hoch, 5 and 4. Woods had five birdies and an eagle at the 11th, where he rolled in an 18-foot putt.

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Hoch knows something good when he sees it.

“It was phenomenal watching him today,” Hoch said. “He was in complete control of everything. If he plays like that there’s no one here that can beat him. He can’t continue that.”

Or maybe he can.

Scott took out Jay Haas in the morning, scoring a 2-and-1 decision, due primarily to a birdie-eagle start on the back, then surviving two bogeys because Haas slipped and made three in a row.

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“I had a good spell around the turn, which turned the match for me,” Scott said.

Toms defeated Alex Cejka in Friday’s third round, was 6 up through 10 holes against Jerry Kelly, then coasted to a 4-and-3 victory.

Darren Clarke was 3 up after eight, but lost, 2 up, to Lonard, who was grateful there still were some holes left to play.

“When you have nine or 10 to go, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it’s back against the wall,” Lonard said.

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After missing cuts in his last two tournaments, at Torrey Pines and Riviera, Toms says he came here with “zero” confidence. That has already changed, but imagine how much it could be soaring by this afternoon.


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