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La Costa strikes back; Woods still the man
By Mike Tirico
Special to ABC Sports Online

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- La Costa regained a lot of respect this week.

A courageous effort
David Toms David Toms gave a gutsy performance this weekend considering he was so weak after a bout with food poisoning Thursday night. His toughest match of the week might have been his battle with Alex Cejka on Friday, then he had to play two matches Saturday and another 36 holes Sunday.

Even Tiger, who's as fit and healthy as anyone out here, was admittedly mentally and physically drained by the week, so you can imagine how Toms felt.

We learned a lot about what Toms is made of Sunday afternoon. He's 5 down after 18 holes, and even though he's had a very long week and his chances of winning were very small, he fought back, taking it all the way to the 35th hole. That's a phenomenal effort.

Toms didn't have a lot to lose Sunday, but in losing, he gained a lot of respect.

It's a golf course that, when it played host to the Tournament of Champions (now the Mercedes Championships) from 1969 through the late 1990s, was starting to become too easy for today's players. But those memories were erased at the Accenture Match Play Championship this week.

Between the wet weather, the lengthening by more than 200 yards and the thick rough -- we're talking major championship-caliber rough -- the golf course regained its relevance in today's era. If this had been a stroke-play event, we would have seen a single-digit-under-par total from the winner.

In these major championship-type conditions, of course it wasn't surprising to see Tiger Woods come out on top.

This just in: Tiger's the best player in the world (to borrow a line from Chris Berman). We shouldn't ignore Ernie Els' great start to the season, but in Tiger we have a guy who shut it down in early December, had knee surgery, watched for six weeks as people talked about how well Ernie was playing, then came out and went win, fifth place, win in his first three starts of 2003. Not too shabby.

And the Match Play is one of the hardest events to win. Woods is only the second guy among the better players in the world to win this event (before this year, 19th-seeded Darren Clarke was the highest-ranked player to win the event, in 2000).

Woods was dominant for 3½ days, but really got pushed by Adam Scott on Saturday afternoon. Scott shot 5-under and lost. How many times do you ever see that?

I thought Sunday was Woods' worst day of the week in terms of how he played. I say that, and yet he was still 5 up after 19 holes. In the afternoon 18, when he really wasn't playing his best, Woods was still good enough to make some big putts in big spots, and was able to hold off a guy who's a legitimate top 10 in the world in David Toms.

Woods isn't playing in Dubai this week, so next up he has Bay Hill in a few weeks and then the Players Championship and The Masters, all events he's traditionally done well in. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: I don't see any evidence in front of me that tells me to pick anyone else to win a tournament that Woods is entered in.

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