A couple of Tampa golf fans played an unwitting role in Tiger Woods' victory Sunday at the Bay Hill Invitational.
Tony Dekroub and his girlfriend, Kathleen Eidsvaag, decided to make the trip for the final round and arrived in time to catch the final few holes. They were standing along the left side of the 18th fairway of the Bay Hill Club when Woods' tee shot came screaming their way.
Before he knew it, Dekroub felt a ball hit him in the neck after it bounced on the ground. The ball came to rest on the cart path. Eidsvaag, not knowing better, picked it up.
"I looked down at the ball and saw the little Nike symbol," Dekroub said. "And it said "Tiger.' "
Dekroub said the ball likely was headed out of bounds if it had not hit him. Instead, it came to rest on the cart path _ Woods would have received a drop had Dekroub touched it or not _ from where Woods hit a 5-iron from 191 yards to 12 feet. He made the birdie putt to defeat Phil Mickelson by one shot.
"I was very lucky to have the breaks that occurred," Woods said.
LOSING BATTLE: The duel between Woods and Sergio Garcia lasted six holes.
With the two tied at that point, Garcia hit his approach on the par-5 No. 6 into the water. Trying to hit a 6-iron from 214 yards, he caught it "thin" and dumped it into the water. His next shot barely cleared, and he ended up with triple-bogey 8.
When Woods birdied the hole, Garcia was four back, and he never got closer than three shots the rest of the way. He ended up in a four-way tie for fourth.
"I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself more than anything," said Garcia, who has two European titles but has not won in the United States. "I was trying to play well and enjoy the game of golf."
BAD SHOT: Chris Perry was the forgotten member of the threesome with Woods and Garcia, but coming to the 18th hole, he had a chance to finish alone in third place.
He hooked his approach shot out of bounds. He followed that with another shot into the crowd, requiring hundreds of spectators to be moved out of his way. He made triple-bogey 7 and dropped into a tie for eighth.
"I've never been so embarrassed in my life," Perry said. "Probably nobody in the history of golf has hit a shot that bad. I'm still in shock."
By not parring the hole, Perry cost himself $147,000. He earned $91,000 for his eighth-place tie.
CHIP SHOTS: Woods moved into sixth place on the PGA Tour money list, up from 19th. He has earned $1,175,857 and trails leaderJoe Durant by less than $450,000. Sunday's final-round scoring average of 73.243 was two strokes higher than Saturday's average, 71.230, and was the highest-scoring final round of the year. The PGA Tour moves up the road this week to Ponte Vedra Beach for the Players Championship. Hal Sutton will attempt to defend his title in the $6-million tournament.
_ BOB HARIG