The World Golf Championships were created seven years ago to bring together the best players from around the world. Tiger Woods has turned them into an annuity.

Woods overcame some shaky putting yesterday by making an 18-foot birdie putt that broke sharply into the right side of the cup on the 16th hole at Firestone Country Club, sending him to a one-shot victory over Chris DiMarco at the NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

"I've had that putt for three or four years, and I miss it low every time," Woods said. "I made sure I threw the ball out there a little bit more . . . and it just snapped at the end. I thought it was going to lip out, which was how my whole day was going. But it lipped in, which was sweet."

The victory, his seventh straight year with at least one WGC title, wasn't secure until Woods punched a 9-iron through the trees and onto the 18th green for a two-putt par to close with a 1-over par 71.

Woods missed five putts inside eight feet and trailed Kenny Perry by two shots when they made the turn. Woods finished at 6-under-par 274 and earned $1.3 million for his fifth victory of the year, one more than Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson.

DiMarco, who lost to Woods in a playoff at the Masters, thought he might get another shot at him when he shot a 68 to finish at 275. Playing four groups ahead of Woods, he had a 20-foot birdie on the 18th that grazed the edge of the cup.

It was the first time Woods won with a final round over par since he shot 2-over par 72 to win the American Express Championship -- another WGC event -- two years ago outside Atlanta.

Blustery conditions contributed to that, although mostly it was his putter.

"I just could not make a putt," Woods said. "Either I hit good putts that didn't go in, or I hit atrocious putts that weren't even close. It was frustrating."

Woods walked to the 14th tee tapping his driver onto the cart path until he reached the grass, when he pounded the club into the ground. He could sense the NEC Invitational slipping away.

Woods now has 45 career victories, moving past Walter Hagen into seventh on the all-time list. Twelve of those have come in three tournaments, with four victories apiece at the NEC Invitational, the Masters and the Bay Hill Invitational.

Woods has won nine of the 18 World Golf Championships he has played, and he has earned about $11.6 million from these tournaments, more than 20 percent of his career earnings.

* PGA TOUR: Vaughn Taylor successfully defended his title at the Reno-Tahoe Open in Reno, Nev., shooting an even-par 72 to beat Jonathan Kaye by three strokes with a tournament-record 21-under par total.

Taylor, in his second year on the PGA Tour, joined Vijay Singh as the only players to successfully defend a title this year and also became the fifth wire-to-wire winner of the season. Taylor's 267 total was four better than the previous tournament record set by Kirk Triplett in 2003.

* LPGA TOUR: Soo Yun Kang won for the first time on the LPGA Tour, shooting a 3-under par 69 for a four-stroke victory at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore.

Women's British Open winner Jeong Jang shot a 70 to finish second, and Gloria Park was five strokes back after a 71.

Australian Karrie Webb caused a bit of a stir on the 12th hole of the final round when she took a camera from a photographer -- apparently a member of the media who was clicking during Webb's backswing. The camera was returned to the photographer at the end of the round.

* CHAMPIONS TOUR: Former PGA Tour and USGA administrator David Eger won his second tour title, shooting a final-round 67 in the inaugural Boeing Greater Seattle Classic in Snoqualmie, Wash.

Eger finished at 17-under 199 for the 54-hole tournament. He was three strokes ahead of runner-up Tom Kite.

Eger is a three-time Walker Cup member and two-time U.S. Amateur semifinalist. He won his only previous Champions Tour victory at the 2003 MasterCard Classic in Mexico City.

Tiger Woods was all smiles after winning the NEC Invitational, his fifth victory this year. Woods has won 9 of the 18 World Golf Championships.