The United States won the 32-team World Cup of Golf yesterday, with Tiger Woods producing the best score in the tournament's history and taking individual honors by a record nine strokes.

His overpowering performance allowed the United States to erase Spain's lead over the last nine holes, ensuring that the cup would return to the United States.

Woods shot a 6-under-par 65 on the course in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, more than offsetting a 77 by partner Mark O'Meara. He finished at 21-under 263 and O'Meara had 282 for a five-shot victory over Spain, 545 to 550.

"Tiger rose to the occasion," O'Meara said. "He met the challenge."

This was the fifth time in six tournaments and ninth in 13 that Woods had come out on top. It also marked his 13th victory in a row in tournaments in which he led after 54 holes.

With his share of $200,000 from the team prize plus the individual award of $100,000, Woods increased his earnings for this season to $7.28 million. . . .

Denmark's Thomas Bjorn won the $1.9 million Dunlop Phoenix tournament, beating Spanish teenager Sergio Garcia on the fourth playoff hole in Miyazaki, Japan. . . .

In Pebble Beach, Calif., Rocco Mediate shot a 4-under 68 for a one-stroke victory over LPGA Tour star Annika Sorenstam in the Pebble Beach Invitational Pro-Am.


Huskies Spread Wealth

The University of Connecticut spent nearly $60,000 for rings and pendants marking the national championship won by the men's basketball team, a newspaper reported.

The rings and pendants, paid for from the athletic department's budget, were given to about 295 people, including team members, staff, trustees, fund-raisers and major donors, according to the New Haven Register.

Recipients included President Clinton; Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland; corporate leaders such as Robert Fiondella, president of Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co.; former and current Big East commissioners Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese; and CBS sports broadcaster Jim Nantz.

Huskies Coach Jim Calhoun, his assistant coaches, Athletic Director Lew Perkins, university president Philip Austin and administrator Jeffrey Hathaway received 10-karat gold and diamond rings worth $495.50 each, according to university officials.

The 16 U-Conn. players who beat Duke in the championship game last March each received a "gold tone" ring with cubic zirconium stones. The players' rings were worth $199 each.


Johnson's Condition

Stephan Johnson, 31, who took two brutal punches to the head and was placed on oxygen in the ring, was in critical condition with a brain injury following his junior middleweight bout against Paul Vaden Saturday night in Atlantic City.

Johnson, of Brooklyn, N.Y., had swelling of the brain diagnosed after he was knocked out in the 10th round. . . .

Washington's James Baker won a six-round majority decision over Billy Gates in a junior lightweight bout Saturday night in Miami. Baker improved to 9-1; Gates, of Mobile, Ala., fell to 7-4.


Ronaldo Injured

Ronaldo, the two-time FIFA player of the year, sprained his right knee in Internazionale of Milan's 6-0 rout of Lecce and could be sidelined for up to two months.


Winnie Palmer Dies

Winnie Palmer, 65, the wife of golfer Arnold Palmer, died Saturday after a lengthy illness. Her family said the cause of death was a malignant tumor in the abdomen lining. . . .

Fred Podesta, 80, the first general manager of the New York Knicks and a pioneer in U.S. sports television, died Nov. 15.