In his first outing since clinching a third Open Championship at Hoylake last month, world number one Tiger Woods of the USA (pictured) eased to victory at the 2006 Buick Open at Warwick Hills ? further cementing his position at the top of the US standings for Ryder Cup qualification.

Woods? fourth consecutive round of 66 for a total of -24 was enough to finish the final day three strokes clear of fellow American Jim Furyk, who carded an impressive final round of 64. Both men are certain to feature in the match against Europe at the K Club in Ireland next month, and US captain Tom Lehman will be delighted that they have secured a safe passage into his team.

Woods became the youngest man in the history of the US PGA Tour to reach 50 wins by securing the win in Michigan, and reached the landmark in his 196th tournament. The 30 year-old has only been a professional for ten years and he becomes only the seventh man to reach the 50 win mark on the Tour ? joining Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. It was the 21st time that Woods has taken at least a two shot lead into a final round on the US Tour – and his 21st victory.

?It?s pretty cool to get to 50 wins,? the eleven time Major winner said after being presented with a commemorative cake by the sponsors on Sunday.

?You never in your wildest dreams think that it could happen. I?ve had a lot of amazing things happen to me in my years on the tour so far and I just feel really blessed.?

Snead holds the USPGA record for wins with 83, and Woods is hopeful that he can reach the target.

?Hopefully I can get to 83 or 84,? he said.

?It?s going to take a lifetime ? a whole career, basically ? and it?s not going to happen next year. It took me 10 years to get here, and I hope I can continue to play well for the next 10 or 20 years.?

RYDER CUP WATCH

With Woods and Furyk filling the top two spots at the Buick Open, the top ten positions in the US Team Standings were largely unaltered over the weekend. Woods and Furyk have cemented their positions in 1st and 3rd place, but others in the top ten were unable to do the same ? meaning that the final two tournaments that offer qualifying points over the next two weekends will be crucial. The latter of these two events, the USPGA Championship, is the final Major tournament of the season and double points will be up for grabs at Medinah in just under two weeks? time

Two players who failed to ease Lehman?s worries and seal their automatic qualification were David Toms and Open runner-up Chris DiMarco. They remain in 5th and 6th place respectively and will probably make the US team, but both players missed the cut at the Buick Open and with it the chance to ease Lehman?s blood pressure.

The two players to really make moves at the Buick Open were Vaughn Taylor and the former US Amateur Champion Scott Verplank. Both men finished in a tie for fourth place at Warwick Hills, meaning their chances of qualification have improved dramatically. Taylor moves up from 11th place to 7th, while Verplank?s fine effort sees him move up to 16th place from 22nd. Both men will be hoping that they can continue in good form over the next two weeks and seal their places on the plane for the journey to Ireland at the end of September.

Main points scorers from Buick Open: Tiger Woods (consolidates 1st place), Jim Furyk (closes gap on 2nd place), Vaughn Taylor (moves up from 11th to 7th) and Scott Verplank (moves up from 22nd to 16th).

US Ryder Cup Standings ? 7th August 2006

Pos Player Points

1 Tiger Woods 4150

2 Phil Mickelson 2474

3 Jim Furyk 2076

4 Chad Campbell 1129

5 David Toms 1072

6 Chris DiMarco 830

7 Vaughn Taylor 780

8 JJ Henry 778

9 Zach Johnson 756

10 Brett Wetterich 746

11 John Rollins 685

12 Jerry Kelly 653

13 Lucas Glover 641

14 Davis Love III 631

15 Fred Couples 627

* Top ten automatically qualify for the team. Captain Tom Lehman then chooses two wildcard picks. Points are available until Sunday August 20th 2006.