On his 35th birthday, Ernie Els received a familiar present -- a World Match Play title. And he just might have his 96-year-old grandfather to thank.
Els won the event for a record sixth time, beating Lee Westwood, 2 and 1, yesterday in Virginia Water, England, to capture golf's biggest payday -- $1.8 million.
The South African completed his victory with a 20-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole. This was the third straight time he won the event, matching his three titles from 1994 to '96.
Els got some shrewd advice along the way. He took a phone call from his elderly grandfather, who suggested he keep his head still while putting.
"The older he gets the harder he gets," Els said. "He was giving me a lot of grief about my putting. I hope he's happy now. At least I holed one good putt."
Westwood, the 2000 champion who won $720,000 as runner-up, looked set to take the match. The Englishman was on the green at the par-5, 571-yard 17th in two with Els short and in heavy rough. Els chipped on 20 feet short while Westwood got down in two putts for his birdie. He then watched as Els, reading his putt perfectly, curled it slightly left to right into the hole.
"I wasn't surprised," Westwood said. "I know Ernie's a great putter. He's a great champion."
Els's sixth title broke the record he had shared with Gary Player, who won five times between 1965 and 1973, and Seve Ballesteros, whose successes came from 1981 to 1991.
"The golf might not have been the greatest, but match play is like that," Els said. "I just concentrated on trying to hit greens and fairways."
Els has a house that borders the Wentworth course, and would like a few more victories out of the layout.
"No tournament has ever gone like this for me ever, and I'm very grateful," he said. "Hopefully, I will stay healthy and keep playing it. We live here and this is my true home course now."
The players were even after 18 holes. After Els won the 21st and 22nd, Westwood twice got back to one down but Els won the 34th.
* PGA TOUR: Brent Geiberger started with consecutive birdies and never wavered, finishing with a final-round 66 for a two-shot victory in the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro (N.C.).
Brent and his father, Al, are the first father-son duo to win the same tournament on the Tour. Al Geiberger won in 1976.
Five years after his only career victory, Brent Geiberger is a winner again.
"I'm very happy that my name is going up there with my dad," said Brent Geiberger, whose total of 270 was 18 under. Michael Allen birdied the final hole to finish second. Chris Smith was another shot back in third.
* LPGA TOUR: In Palm Desert, Calif., Annika Sorenstam charged from three shots back over the final five holes to overtake Grace Park and win her fourth Samsung World Championship.
Sorenstam shot a closing 5-under 67 to finish 18-under par, three shots ahead of Park. The leader the first three days, Park had a final-round 73.
The $206,000 winner's prize put Sorenstam over the $2 million mark for the fourth consecutive year.
* CHAMPIONS TOUR: In San Antonio, Mark McNulty shot a 6-under 65 to win the SBC Championship by eight strokes over Gary McCord, the largest margin of victory in a 54-hole event on the tour this season.
McNulty, of Zimbabwe, finished the tournament at 18-under 195 for his second victory this year and a top prize of $225,000. His other win came in his tour debut at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in February.
Bobby Wadkins was third at 204, one stroke ahead of Tom Kite, Dave Stockton and Bruce Fleisher.
* EUROPEAN TOUR: Sergio Garcia shot a 3-under 67 to pull away from Simon Khan and capture the Mallorca Classic in Pula, Balearic Islands. The Spaniard, who began the day tied with Khan at 9 under, finished at 12-under 268, four shots ahead of Khan. Garcia earned $208,000 for his fifth European Tour title.