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Time remains still for Tiger

Woods takes NEC Invitational as night closes in on course

Posted: Monday, August 28, 2000

AKRON, Ohio -- Even in near darkness, there was no mistaking Tiger Woods.

He was a silhouette in the fairway, 168 yards from the green, trying to complete another landslide victory. The swing was unmistakably pure. The result was vintage Woods, the ball dropping from the dark haze and landing 2 feet from the pin.

''I could see the flag,'' Woods said. ''I just couldn't see the shot.''

With cameras flashing like strobe lights and fans flicking lighters like they were at a rock concert, Woods finished an otherwise ho-hum final round with a birdie to win the NEC Invitational by 11 strokes on Sunday.

The only suspense was whether Woods would beat the clock, brought on my a storm delay that lasted nearly three hours.

It was a close call, unlike anything else at Firestone Country Club.

He completed his romp over a world-class field with a 3-under-par 67 to finish at 21-under 259. It was his lowest 72-hole score as a professional, and it broke the Firestone record of 262 set 10 years ago by Jose Maria Olazabal.

A week after an emotionally draining playoff victory in the PGA Championship for his third straight major, Woods showed no letup in a game that appears to be without weakness. He now has set tournament records in his last four victories.

Even more impressive is that Woods was battling the flu the past couple of days, brought on by his intense pursuit of history over the last three months -- a record-breaking victory in the U.S. Open, completing the Grand Slam at the British Open and matching Ben Hogan by winning the PGA.

And now this.

Woods became the first player since Byron Nelson in 1945 to win at least eight times on the PGA Tour in consecutive years. It also was the third time this year Woods has successfully defended a title, the first one to do that since Johnny Miller in 1975.

He has won three of the five World Golf Championship events, and the $1 million paycheck Sunday gave him more money in the last two years than anyone on the career money list except for Davis Love III.

''I'm a better player than I was last year,'' Woods said. ''And hopefully, I'll be better next year.''

Next up for Woods: A clinic at Firestone in the morning, followed by a trip to the California desert for his made-for-TV match-play event against Sergio Garcia, an exhibition that pays $1.1 million to the winner.

Woods got in some practice Sunday -- he put on a clinic, and made another tournament look like a mere exhibition.

Phillip Price of Wales, playing his first tournament in the United States, got as close to Woods as anyone Sunday -- five strokes. But he bogeyed three of the last four holes and finished with a 69 to slip into a tie for second with Justin Leonard, who had a 66.

Both earned $437,500 from the $5 million purse.

Oldsmobile Classic

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Karrie Webb, trying to make LPGA history, settled instead for winning another tournament.

Webb shot an even-par 72 Sunday for a four-round total of 265, tying the Oldsmobile Classic record of 23 under by Lisa Walters in 1998 at Walnut Hills Country Club.

In the process, the Australian star held on for a two-stroke victory over fast-closing Meg Mallon who shot a 66.

''I didn't think anybody had a chance with Karrie today,'' said Mallon, who has nine comeback victories during her career. ''Maybe a bit of complacency held her down.''

Webb went into the final round with a commanding eight-stroke lead over Mallon and Cristie Kerr. At the time, it seemed like her biggest task would be breaking her own LPGA record of 26 under, set last year in the Australian Ladies Masters.

But she never could get her game in gear.

In Saturday's third round Webb birdied three of the first four holes. On Sunday, she was struggling right from the start.

''I didn't have a lot of adrenaline today,'' said Webb, who has six wins this year, including two majors, and leads the LPGA money list. ''I was just a little flat. My whole game was flat.''

U.S. Amateur

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- James Driscoll won the final three holes of regulation to force a playoff with Jeff Quinney in the finals of the 100th U.S. Amateur, which was suspended Sunday after 38 holes.

Quinney, of Eugene, Ore., and Driscoll, of Brookline, Mass., were to resume the title match on the Upper Course at Baltusrol Golf Club at 9 a.m. Monday.

Going to 39 holes also guaranteed they will tie the U.S. Amateur record for the longest title match as Sam Urzetta beat Frank Stranahan in 39 holes in 1950.

Going extra holes was the last thing anyone expected after Quinney, who had staged impressive comeback wins in the third round and the quarterfinals, made a short 2-footer for par at the par-3 15th to go 3-up with three to play.

However, Driscoll, 22, turned the tables on him much to the delight of his family and relatives who shouted ''Way to go James'' after every big shot.

FleetBoston Classic

CONCORD, Mass. -- Larry Nelson pulled away on the back nine Sunday to beat Jim Thorpe by four strokes at the FleetBoston Classic for his third Senior PGA Tour victory of the year.

Nelson's 6-under-par 66, bolstered by four late birdies, gave him a 54-hole total of 13-under 203 and the $195,000 first prize.

Reno-Tahoe Open

RENO, Nev. -- Scott Verplank made an 8-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole of a playoff with Jean Van de Velde to win the Reno-Tahoe Open on Sunday.

After both players parred the first three playoff holes, Van de Velde drove into the rough on the par-5 17th, hit back into the fairway, and reached the green with a 225-yard shot.

The Frenchman ended up saving par with a 12-foot putt, but Verplank hit his third shot within 8 feet and holed the putt to claim his third PGA Tour victory and first since 1988.

Van de Velde suffered some adventures down the stretch reminiscent of the 1999 British Open, where he squandered a three-stroke lead with a triple bogey on the last hole at Carnoustie and eventually lost to Paul Lawrie in a playoff.

Van de Velde played out of a hazard on the 15th hole for a bogey then missed a 12-foot birdie putt that would have won the tournament on the last hole of regulation.

Returning to the 18th for the first playoff hole, he missed almost the identical putt and both players parred. They did the same on the second playoff hole, the 15th.

''I had plenty of chances out there today and didn't make any of them. It was a pretty dry day,'' Van de Veld said.

''There's not much you can do really. You have to make a few putts and I didn't. That's the way it goes. I'll be back.''

Verplank missed a 12-foot birdie attempt on the third playoff hole, the 163-yard, par-3 16th, while Van de Velde hit over the green, but chipped back within a foot.

On No. 17, Verplank drove up the fairway, laid up in front of the green and chipped to where he would make the winning put -- ending the fourth longest drought between wins in PGA Tour history.

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