Herron, Haas leave door open, Weir walks through

Updated: February 2, 2003, 11:32 PM ET
Associated Press

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Mike Weir went with caution. Jay Haas went for the green.

Mike Weir
Mike Weir earned his first win since 2001 when his two playing partners made critical errors down the stretch.

Weir opted to lay up on the final hole and turned that strategy into his third consecutive birdie as he came from behind to win the Bob Hope Classic on Sunday.

Haas hit his approach shot into the water in front of the green and took a bogey that left him two shots back in second place.

Weir, winning his fourth tour title, closed with a 5-under-par 67 and was 30-under 330 for the five-day tournament. Haas had a 69 in the final round, most of which was played in gusting winds.

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 within 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.''

Haas, who won the Hope in 1988 and led until late in the final round last year before fading, added, ''I'll look back, I guess, on the redeye tonight and think about what could have been.''

He wasn't the only player who ran into late trouble.

Tim Herron, four shots ahead of Weir and Haas heading into the final round, struggled to a 75 that included a quadruple bogey on No. 16.

Jay Haas
Jay Haas was gunning for his first victory since 1993, but had to settle for a disappointing runner-up finish after a critical mistake on the 18th.

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

The win by Weir, a native of Sarnia, Ontario, marks the sixth straight tour event won by a foreigner, dating to the final two tournaments of last year.

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.

Weir, who trailed Haas by three shots at the turn, caught him by making a short birdie putt on No. 17 to go 29 under while Haas took a par on the hole.

Playing conditions were ideal and scores very low for the first four days of the 90-hole tournament, but swirling winds made club selection difficult and made for higher scores on the final day.

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.

Herron's troubles on the 364-yard, par-4 16th ran the gamut of hazards -- sand, rocks and water -- as he took eight shots.

He hit his tee shot into a bunker, wedged his next shot off the fairway and under a large rock, took a penalty, then hit over the green and into the water. After another penalty, he pitched within 15 feet of the hole, but his putt from there curled just over the rim of the cup, and he finally putted out.

''In hindsight, I think I could have beat 8,'' Herron said, his sense of humor intact.

Last year, Haas led the Hope at 26 under with eight holes to go, but bogeyed No. 13 to start a slide that wound up in a 74 that dropped him into a tie for 16th.

The 32-year-old Weir, a fulltime tour player since 1998, had an off year in 2002, when he had no top 10 finishes and slipped to 78th on the money list with $843,891. A year earlier, he was 11th with $2.78 million.

Notes
The winners of the year's first four tournaments have an aggregate score of 100 under par. Ernie Els was 31 under at the Mercedes and 16 under at the Sony Open, and Vijay Singh was 23 under at Phoenix. ... Singh (Fiji) won the Tour Championship and Luke Donald (England) the Southern Farm Bureau Classic to close out last season and begin the streak of six straight wins by foreigners, including the two this year by Els (South Africa) and another by Singh.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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