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Herron, Haas leave door open, Weir walks through

2/2/2003

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

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.

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.