Weir falls short in Canadian bid

Updated: September 14, 2004, 6:34 PM ET
Associated Press

OAKVILLE, Ontario -- Vijay Singh won another dramatic duel and earned another No. 1 ranking -- Public Enemy No. 1 in Canada -- for beating Mike Weir in a playoff at the Canadian Open and denying the fans a celebration they had been wanting for 50 years.

Don't blame Singh.

Weir had three putts to become the first Canadian in 50 years to win his national title -- a 10-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole, a 25-footer for eagle on No. 18 in the playoff, and a 5-footer on No. 17 at the second playoff hole.

He missed them all, and finally ran out of luck.

Weir pulled his tee shot on No. 18 for the third playoff hole, laid up and then hit his approach in the water. Some 25,000 fans let out a collective groan, and gave begrudging applause when Singh three-putted from the fringe for par.

"I feel for Mike," Singh said. "That was the one person I didn't want to beat."

Maybe when the Canadians get over the loss, they're realize who won their national championship.

Singh closed with a 69 for his seventh victory of the year -- only Tiger Woods (twice), Jack Nicklaus (twice) and Johnny Miller have won that often since 1970.

More importantly for the 41-year-old Fijian, the $810,000 he won Sunday at Glen Abbey gives him just short of $8.7 million for the season, allowing him to close in on Woods' single-season record of $9.1 million.

Despite a sore left knee all week, despite playing the 11th hole in 7 over par, and despite trailing Weir by two shots with three holes to play, Singh again found a way to get it done.

He took over the No. 1 ranking from Woods last week, and showed it's in good hands.

Ultimately, however, this will be remembered as one Weir gave away.

The former Masters champion had three-putt bogeys on two of the final six holes -- one of them from 8 feet with a chance to lock up the title -- and he had a chance to win in regulation with a 10-foot birdie that left a major championship-caliber gallery on the edge of its seat.

It turned away on the final roll, leaving Weir with his only round over par all week -- a 1-over 72 -- and both players at 9-under 275.

Joe Ogilvie had a 69 to finish third, two shots behind at 277.

Justin Rose of England had the best round of the tournament, an 8-under 63 that put him in a tie for fourth with Tom Lehman (64), Hunter Mahan (68) and Stewart Cink (69). Mahan, No. 117 on the money list with two months left in the season, earned $177,187 to assure himself of keeping the card.

Weir appeared to have the Bell Canadian Open wrapped up when he holed a 12-foot birdie on No. 10 to get to 12 under and take a three-shot lead over Singh.

But he dropped a shot on the 11th by driving in a bunker, in front of a grassy mound that forced him to lay up short of the creek. Then came a shocking bogey on the par-5 13th when Weir, trying to putt over a ridge from 30 feet, didn't even get his first putt halfway to the hole.

Still leading by two with three holes to play, Weir had a slippery 8-footer for birdie on the 16th that might have effectively clinched it, only to knock it 4 feet by and miss the par putt.

Singh finally caught Weir with a 371-yard drive on the par-5 18th. His approach went long into the rough and he chipped 8 feet by, but his putt caught enough of the left lip to fall in for birdie, and Singh tossed his ball into the water and walked off the green with his putter held high.

He was the winner about an hour later, and looked almost apologetic.

The Canadians showered Singh with respect throughout the week, but there wasn't much love in the playoff. When Singh's 8-foot par putt on the second extra holed lipped out, the gallery let out a cheer.

Maybe it was a Ryder Cup preview -- even if neither player will be at Oakland Hills next week.

The energy in the gallery was at a level only felt at majors -- and even then, only when it's Woods or Phil Mickelson they are watching. Fans packed along every inch of rope from tee-to-green, and the noise was relentless on a spectacular afternoon.

Weir recovered from a double bogey on the second hole with a spectacular approach into 3 feet on the 156-yard third hole, the toughest on the front nine, for a birdie that got him back on track. When he hit his approach into 2 inches on the sixth hole for a birdie, his lead was four and the noise was deafening.

By the time he got to the back nine, the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Open came down to Canada's best player against the best in the world.

Singh usually thrives when the crowd is screaming for someone else -- John Daly at the Buick Open in blue-collar Flint, Mich., last month; Woods at the Deutsche Bank Championship last week when he won to replace him at No. 1.

It looks like Singh intends to stay at the top for a while.<

Bill Haas needed to finish in the top 10 to qualify for the Texas Open. He closed with a 74 and tied for 19th, meaning he will have to go through Monday qualifying in San Antonio. If he doesn't get in, he will go to Oakland Hills to watch his father, Jay Haas, play in the Ryder Cup. ... Phil Mickelson recovered from his worst score of the year to close with a 68 and finish at 7-over 291, his highest four-round total of the season. He tied for 57th.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press