Bateman breaks Buick tie on No. 18
Monday, July 2, 2007
Brian Bateman's knees buckled. He tossed his putter in the air and pumped his fists.
His long wait for a PGA Tour victory ended with a birdie on the last hole Sunday at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., breaking a four-way tie and making him the improbable winner.
"It seemed like it took forever to get to the hole," Bateman said of the slow-rolling putt that broke slightly from right to left. "Then, I just went blank and threw my hands up and said, 'Man, I finally did it."'
Bateman entered his 151st PGA Tour event 204th on the money list in his sixth year with the world's best golfers.
His best previous finish was third before he closed with a 3-under-par 69 to finish 15-under 273 and win by a shot with the highest winning score at Warwick Hills since 1997.
Jason Gore (67), Justin Leonard (67) and Woody Austin (69) finished tied for second. Jim Furyk (70) and Scott Verplank (71) were in a group of five that were two shots behind Bateman.
A perfect drive and approach at No. 18 -- the tournament's third-toughest hole -- set Bateman up for his 12-footer that kept him out of a playoff, earned him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and an invitation to the 2008 Masters.
"It's a life-changing week," he said. "A life-changing putt."
Lonnie Nielsen, who didn't win in five years on the PGA Tour and made 91 starts on the Champions Tour without winning, shot a 2-under 69 for a two-stroke victory over Loren Roberts in the Commerce Bank Championship in East Meadow, N.Y.
Nielsen, who turned 54 on Friday, won 32 titles on smaller tours, including the New York State Open in 1985 and 1989. He entered the final round at the 7,021-yard Red Course at Eisenhower Park with a three-stroke lead and was never threatened. He took home the $225,000 top prize.
Roberts, who had a one-stroke lead after opening the tournament with a 64, shot a 66 Sunday, closing with a short birdie on the 18th. His second-round 71 proved to be his undoing.
Jay Sigel, who entered the final round tied for third, shot a closing 74 and failed in his bid to become the oldest winner in tour history. Sigel, who will turn 64 in November, finished at 208.
-- The Associated Press