Family powers Woods

From Brian Keogh in California

Family power is king for golf’s crown prince Tiger Woods.

Woods showed his ruthless side with a seven-shot win in the Target World Challenge - then underlined the importance of family for the likes of pal Darren Clarke and Open champion Padraig Harrington.

The world No 1’s celebrated his eighth victory of a super season by kissing his six-month old daughter Sam Alexis by the 18th green and patting her on the head.

And he confessed that despite all his success this year, nothing is bigger or more important than family.

Learning of Clarke’s first top 10 finish for 18 months in the South African Open, the American said: “Well, I can't even put myself in his shoes in order to truly understand what he's gone through, to lose someone that you figured you'd spend the rest of your life with.

“Not too many people can really and truly understand what he's gone through and how hard it's been. I've talked to him on quite a few occasions. It's been pretty painful, been very tough.

“You know, the thing he alluded to is he's become so much closer to his kids, and that's given him a lot of strength.

“I think now they're just starting to see the game turn around and I think he's going to make some nice strides this year.”

Woods described 2007 as the “polar 180 degree opposite” of 2006, when his father Earl passed away.

Just minutes after being greeted by his wife Elin and baby daughter, he said: “Well, obviously having her (Sam Alexis) on the 18th green, it puts things in perspective real quick.

“Even though I had won, I just wanted to know how she's doing, how she's been all day. I forgot that for a moment, ‘Hey, you won a golf tournament.’

“I can understand how Paddy (Harrington) reacted the way he did at the British Open, having his son run out there and maybe just had a big debacle there at 18, and it put things in perspective right away. That's how powerful family is.

“This year on the golf course it's been a great year. It's been the greatest year I've ever had. As I've said before, it's been a polar 180 of last year.”

Harrington described the moment when four year old Paddy ran out on Carnoustie’s 18th green after his double bogey six as one of his top moments of the year.

He said: “The one thing I had no control over but had the biggest effect on me was my son running onto the green of the 72nd hole at The Open Championship.

“Everything else was in my hands. I was in control. It was me who was dictating everything but that was the one thing I had not planned for and it made all the difference. It totally did.

“He ran onto that green and he looked at me like I was the champion. If I had known it would happen, I would not have felt that way. You do need those sort of things to happen.”

Woods donated his $1.35 million winner’s cheque to his Tiger Woods Learning Centre after a season that will go down as one of his best ever.

He captured the 13th major of his career at the US PGA in August, capturing the US money title and Player of Year award.

The bad news for his rivals is that he feels he can only get better.

He explained: :Obviously I've got a lot of room for improvement, which is great fun. Obviously, I hit a lot of good shots this week but I also hit some loose ones.

“The great thing is my bad ones aren't as bad as they used to be. Either I just miss fairways or just miss greens, but obviously not off the planet like they used to be.”

He was made to sweat in the final round after Jim Furyk cut his six shot lead to just two strokes with nine holes to play.

But some back nine errors by Furyk allowed Zach Johnson to snatch second place and a cheque for $860,000.

Woods plans to “shut it down” over Christmas and celebrate his 32nd birthday alongside his family on December 30.

He joked: “In our family growing up, I didn't really like Christmas, I didn't really like my birthday because I used to get one sock for my Christmas and one sock for my birthday. Right shoe and then left shoe.

“But this one will be a lot more special and one that Elin and I will obviously cherish because we've never experienced this before, and we're looking forward to it. Even though she's not going to remember it, we certainly will.”