Weir finishes strong, claims Hope by two strokes

LA QUINTA, Calif. The winds of change ended the birdie barrage at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and finally gave fans something to see besides 300-yard drives down the middle of the fairway and pitching wedges to 6 feet of the cup. There was Jay Haas, one hole away from winning his first tournament in a decade, plunking one into the drink in front of the 18th green.

Mike Weir cheers a long birdie putt on the 17th hole.

By Mark J. Terrill, AP

There was Tim Herron, a four-shot leader heading into the final round, maybe three holes from victory, finding sand and rocks and water but very little grass on the 16th hole on his way to a quadruple-bogey eight and a tie for third place.

Funny, the one guy who stood tall and firm in the 30 mph wind that swept through the desert Sunday was 5-9, 155-pound Mike Weir, a Canadian left-hander who hardly made a bad shot all day and finished with three consecutive birdies.

That gave Weir a final-round 67, a five-day total of 30-under 330 and a two-shot victory over Haas, who shot 69.
(Related item: Bob Hope Classic results)

"I don't think I could have asked to play any better under these conditions," Weir, 32, said. "When it's blowing that hard, you have to just concentrate on hitting the ball solid, and I don't remember mis-hitting a shot."

  Weir's victory gives international players six consecutive victories on the PGA Tour.

  Haas, 49, had a two-shot lead midway through Sunday's final round in his bid to become   the sixth-oldest man to win a PGA Tour event.

  And he was still tied for the lead with Weir while standing in the fairway on the par-5 18th hole. Weir had been forced because of a downhill lie to lay up short of the green on his second shot. Haas, with 194 yards to the cup, had a perfect lie and a great chance to stick it close to the hole in two.

  But he hit the 4-iron a little fat. Maybe the wind helped. But the ball fell into the water, and Haas, who bogeyed the hole, had to settle for second place still his best finish in five years.

"I have mixed emotions," said Haas, whose last win was at the 1993 Texas Open. "I did so many great things. I was shocked that I didn't hit a good shot there at 18. I'll look back, I guess, on the red-eye tonight and think about what could have been."

After four days of dead calm and deadeye shooting, winds gusted unpredictably Sunday, preserving the PGA Tour's 90-hole record of 36-under set here two years ago by Joe Durant and halting the barrage of 61s and 62s.

Earlier in the tournament, when the pros were treating the notion of par as only a vague guideline, Haas cautioned that eventually tougher courses and tougher conditions would bring everyone back to earth.

He only had to wait a few days. On Sunday, a perfectly good day to fly a kite but not a good day to predict the flight of a golf ball, it seemed like half the field shot 75.

That included Herron, the pudgy pro who goes by the nickname Lumpy. He lost his lead quickly with a front-nine 38, regained a share of it with an eagle at No. 14, then melted down on the 16th. He was in a sand trap, rock pile and water hazard before finishing with an eight.

Haas and Weir, his playing partners, could only watch and wince.

"I felt horrible for Tim," Weir said. "That's golf. You play this game long enough, unfortunately, those things happen sometimes. I felt sick for him."

Weir recovered quickly, though, rolling in birdie putts of 10, 40 and 8 feet on the last three holes for his fourth career victory and a check for $810,000.

Weir insisted both he and Haas made the right decisions on the 18th fairway.

"My only option, really, was to lay up. If I hit 10 balls from there, I might be able to get one on the green," he said. "But I felt I could lay it up to 80 or 90 yards, my wedge shot is right into the wind, and I had the bank I could play into."

He hit his wedge to 8 feet, and, needing two putts for the win, made the birdie on the 543-yard par-5.

"That was a no-decision for Jay there, too. It's a definite go from where he was. I would have done the same thing," Weir said.

Haas hit a good drive on No. 18, maybe too good, he said.

"I almost got too close ," he said after his tee shot left him 195 yards to the green. "I'd almost rather go in there with a 5-wood or something where I could stick it up in the air. I was between a 4- and 5-iron, and I took the 4. I just mis-hit it a little bit. I was a little surprised it didn't carry."

Herron finished tied for third at 25-under with Chris DiMarco, who shot 70.

  PGA officials believe foreign players have never won six tour tournaments in a row, and the last time foreigners took the first four events of the year was in 1927 when Tommy Armour and Bobby Cruickshank of Scotland each won twice to begin the season.

  David Gossett matched par to finish fifth at 24-under, and defending champion Phil Mickelson, who came on strong after an opening 70, had a 67 to finish in a tie with Pat Perez for sixth at 23-under. Perez shot 71.

  Contributing: The Associated Press  
Weir at 2003 Pebble Beach        Weir at Doral