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TIGER TOPS ARMSTRONG FOR AP ATHLETE HONORS

Tiger Woods wasn't even considered the country's best golfer halfway through 1999. By year's end, however, he had put together one of the sport's most dominant seasons in the 20th century.

Woods won nine of his last 13 tournaments, including a major championship, and earned $7.6 million.

On Monday, Woods was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in a close vote over Lance Armstrong.

"It's great to be selected, very humbling to be part of that," said Woods, who won the award for the second time in three years. "A lot of great athletes have won this award."

Woods received 29 first-place votes and 144 points from AP member newspapers and broadcast outlets. Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer to win the Tour de France, had 31 first-place votes and finished with 130 points.

Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox finished third with 45 points, followed by John Elway and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.

Rounding out the top 10 were: Andre Agassi, Tim Duncan, Payne Stewart, Sammy Sosa, and quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner, who tied for 10th.

The U.S. women's World Cup soccer team was named the AP Female Athletes of the Year last week and also won for story of the year.

Woods became only the seventh man -- and second golfer -- to win AP Athlete of the Year twice since it began in 1931. The others were Don Budge, Byron Nelson, Sandy Koufax, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana and Michael Jordan.

Jordan is the only three-time winner. Woods, who turns 24 on Thursday, figures to have at least 20 more years to match or surpass Jordan. At this rate, the only thing capable of stopping him is a career-threatening injury or loss of desire.

"He's not even close to how good he can get," said Davis Love III after finishing second to Woods in the Tour Championship. "He's going to be good for a long, long time."

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