Ian Woosnam takes third consecutive win at Cisco World Match Play Championship

For a tournament well past its salad days, the Cisco World Match Play Championship managed to look remarkably fresh in its 38th year.

Ian Woosnam won the title for the third time, with a 2-and-1 victory over Padraig Harrington in the 36-hole final. The 43-year-old Welshman became the oldest man to win the tournament and the first player to win the tournament in three different decades. Woosnam first won the title in 1987 then in 1990. He picked up a check for 403,400 euros (approximately $366,484) for his victory this year. Harrington earned approximately $175,912 for finishing second.

It was Woosnam’s first victory since 1997, when he won the Volvo PGA Championship and the Hyundai Motor Masters in South Korea.

“It certainly has been worth the wait and the effort,” Woosnam said. “I’ve worked hard at times with (coach) Pete Cowen. I’ve worked for 21⁄2 years on my swing, and it showed up today when the pressure was on. I think if I had been playing stroke play this week I would have been close to winning. I think a bogey was my worst score and I made lots of birdies.”

Although the tournament no longer lives up to its tag as a “world” golf championship, the golf at Wentworth, particularly in the final, was world class.

Woosnam and Harrington made 21 birdies in the morning round, with Harrington chipping in 12 and Woosnam nine. The Welshman had seven consecutive birdies from the second hole and covered the front nine in 7-under 28. He was 7 under after 13 holes but found himself 1 down to the Irishman.

Woosnam did well to finish the morning round only 2 down to Harrington. He was 3 down after three holes of the afternoon round and still 2 down after eight. The turning point came at the ninth hole when Harrington made a triple bogey after a bad drive and took a penalty stroke for moving his ball in play. He eventually conceded the hole to Woosnam.

Woosnam then made birdies at Nos. 11, 12 and 13 to go 2 up on Harrington, a lead he would never surrender. Woosnam won the match when he halved the par-5 17th with a birdie.

Woosnam had a tougher draw than Harrington, defeating U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, 4 and 3, in the first round, Colin Montgomerie by the same score in the second, and then humiliating Lee Westwood, 10 and 9, in the semifinal.

Harrington’s route to the final was marginally easier. He started with a 9-and-8 thrashing of six-time major winner Nick Faldo. He followed that with a 5-and-4 victory over Darren Clarke and then dispatched Sam Torrance, 4 and 3.

Harrington finished second for the seventh time this season, and he has not won in 2001. He said he was “disgusted” with himself for losing a final he felt he should have won.

“I certainly don’t look like I want to finish the job off,” Harrington said. “Something is changing as I am coming down the home stretch. I can’t blame other people. It is up to me to do something. I’m reasonably patient, but I’m starting to lose patience.”

No American player took part in the tournament for the first time in the event’s long history. It forced IMG to issue invites to former winners Woosnam, Faldo and Seve Ballesteros. The 11th hour withdrawl of Mike Weir added further complications. European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, who lives on the Wentworth estates, filled in for Weir.

The match play always has attracted big crowds, and this year was no different. In past years they came to see the best players in the world. This year they came to see a mixture of the cream of European golf against the stars of yesterday.

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