LA QUINTA (California): Canadian Mike Weir did what his playing partners could not Sunday, staying out of the water and off the rocks on his way to the winner's circle at the US$4.5 million PGA Bob Hope Classic.
Weir birdied each of the final three holes en route to a 5-under-par 67 at the PGA West Arnold Palmer Course, where Jay Haas and Tim Herron each led in the last threesome of the day before collapsing.
“To finish like that, with three birdies, to win a tournament, it’s pretty special, really special,” Weir said.
Unable to place better than ninth since his victory at the season-ending Tour Championship in 2001, Weir pocketed the US$810,000 top prize after finishing the 90-hole event at 30-under 330.
It was the fourth career title for Weir, a lefthander who had no top-10 finishes in 25 starts last season.
He began 2003 with a tie for ninth at Phoenix.
“Last year, I was just kind of trying to find a path to get better,” said Weir, who worked on fundamentals like his grip and posture during the offseason. “I kind of went down the wrong road.”
Bidding to become the fifth-oldest winner in PGA Tour history, the 49-year-old Haas, of the US, had a share of the lead standing over his second shot at the par-5 18th.
But he found the water and finished second, two strokes back at 28-under 332.
“I just caught it a little heavy,” said Haas, who led after four rounds last year before falling apart.
“Let’s don’t talk about that. It wasn’t good.”
Herron also had part of the lead when he blasted from a fairway bunker at the 16th hole and lodged his ball under a boulder on a mountain behind the green.
Herron still took home US$261,000 for sharing third with fellow American Chris DiMarco at 26-under 334. David Gossett rounded out the top five at 335, a shot better than Phil Mickelson and Pat Perez.
After four days of ideal scoring conditions, it seemed to be Herron’s tournament, but his four-stroke advantage became less of a cushion when the leaders teed off in strong winds.
With Herron struggling early, Haas needed only six holes to overtake him.
He birdied the second and third before eagling the sixth.
“I don’t think any of us played the course in this condition,” Haas said. “So we don’t know what shots to hit off the tees or what shots to leave ourselves for second shots.”
After matching the tour’s 72-hole record for strokes under par, Herron had the biggest problem with the wind. He played the first 13 holes in 3-over to fall two strokes off the pace.
But Herron, nicknamed “Lumpy” for his less-than-spectacular physique, unleased a 361-yard drive at the par-5 14th and ended up making a 10-foot eagle putt to tie Haas for the lead.
Herron needed only two holes to give back the strokes, and then some. He hit his drive too far at the par-4 16th and flew his second shot from a bunker onto a mountain behind the green.
After taking an unplayable lie and throwing several rocks out his way, Herron whacked his third shot over the green into a creek. Four strokes later, he was out of the tournament.
“I told him on the 18th green, I said, ‘I know I don’t feel any worse than you do, but it just happens,’” Haas said of Herron, who is winless since 1999.
“We’ve all done it.”
Haas has done it in consecutive seasons at PGA West. After collapsing with the 72-hole lead last year, he needed only one swing to ruin this season’s event.
Haas got off to a great start to bring himself back into the tournament as he made a 25-foot birdie putt at the third hole and 18-footer for eagle at the sixth.
He bogeyed the 10th and 13th but birdied the 11th and 16th to keep a one-shot lead.
Haas watched Weir lay up from a downhill lie before taking aim at the 18th green from 194 yards.
But he came up a few short with a 4-iron as his bid for his first title since 1993 came to an end. – AFP