NORTON, Mass. Olin Browne no longer has to write letters to PGA Tour events begging for a tee time. He doesn't have to sweat out the final two months of the season, wondering if he'll earn enough money to keep his card.
Browne took care of all those worries Monday afternoon, when he emerged from a five-way tie for the lead and closed with a 4-under 67 to win the Deutsche Bank Championship by one shot over Jason Bohn.
''It's a little bit different feeling to start out with a lead and play with it all day long, and then finish it off,'' said Browne, who finished at 14-under 270. ''I couldn't be happier about the way I played.''
It was the third victory of his career, and by far the most satisfying.
Not because of the $990,000 check, more than he has won in any of his previous 11 seasons. Not because the victory gave him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. Not even because he is 46 and uncertain how many victories, if any, were left for him.
This was about validation.
Browne, who failed to keep his PGA Tour card the last two years, was so fed up with his game that he went to see Houston swing coach Jim Hardy some 18 months ago, determined to either improve or give up. It was a risky move at his age, with no time to waste.
It paid off in a big way on the TPC of Boston, where Browne was atop the leaderboard the final three days and kept his nose out front with a swing he could trust and a 15-foot birdie putt that all but clinched his victory.
''This validates a year and a half of busting my tail,'' he said.
When it was over, he was reminded of a line from Tom Hanks in the movie ''A League of Their Own.''
''Hard is what makes it good,'' he said.
Browne made this one look relatively easy. He built a three-shot lead on the back nine, saved par with a delicate chip that tumbled down a ridge to 5 feet on the 11th hole, and hit a 7-iron from an awkward lie into 15 feet on the 17th for a birdie that gave him a two-shot cushion.
The toughest part was waiting for Bohn to finish.
Bohn needed an eagle on the 18th hole to force a playoff, and gambled with a hybrid club out of the rough that sailed to the right of the green. His chip never had a chance, and his birdie gave him a 68.
''Today was a big stepping stone for me, playing in the final group, first time ever on the PGA Tour,'' Bohn said. ''Even though I didn't come out on top, I still sucked it up and I played with a lot of heart.''
Reno-Tahoe Open champion Vaughn Taylor shot a 68 to finish third at 10-under 274. Charles Howell III had a 67 and joined three others who finished another shot behind.
Tiger Woods, the first-round leader, was never a factor over the final three days. He shot 71 to tie for 40th.
The five-way tie for the lead going into the last round was the biggest since the 1983 Colonial, and with 16 others within two shots of the lead, it seemed certain to come down to the final holes.
And it did but only Browne and Bohn were left standing.
Hometown favorite Billy Andrade fell apart with a double bogey when he hit into the water on No. 6 and had a 41 on the front nine. John Rollins shot 40 on the front nine to also disappear. Carl Petterson slowly tumbled from contention, unable to make birdies as Brown and Bohn surged ahead.
No one from back in the pack made a move, least of all Woods.
After opening with a 65 to take a one-shot lead, the world's No. 1 player never broke par the rest of the way. He closed with a 71 to tie for 40th, ending his streak at seven straight finishes in the top 5. All that mattered was getting out of town and onto his boat for a week of vacation.
''To be honest with you, I really don't care right now,'' Woods said. ''I'm done. I've had a very long summer. I haven't taken hardly any days off this summer, so it will be nice to actually get some time off and let my mind and body just kind of heal.''
Browne and Bohn separated themselves by making birdies on both par 5s, picking up another birdie along the way and avoiding mistakes. Bohn blinked first.
He pushed his tee shot on the ninth so far to the right it wound up in a hazard, and he had to get up-and-down left of the green to limit the damage to bogey. Then he went over the 10th green, chipped past the hole onto the fringe and made another bogey. Bohn never caught up.
Browne sipped on a Heineken as he headed into the evening to fly home to Florida. He can set his own schedule the next two years, starting with a trip to Kapalua for the winners-only Mercedes Championships in January.
And he doesn't have to write any letters asking for sponsor's exemptions.
''It's nice to be remembered for your commitment to the tour,'' Browne said. ''But at some point, you have to validate those invitations. You have to back it up.''
Divots: Fred Couples caught a flier out of the rough and sailed his approach so far over the ninth green that it bounded down a hill next to the scoring trailer. He was given relief, but instead of marking his ball with a tee, he snatched a chrysanthemum from the flower bed to spot his original lie. ''He can do that,'' PGA Tour rules official Jamie Conkling said, ''as long as the flower didn't blow away.'' ... Tiger Woods got off to a slow start in more ways that one. He didn't show up on the first tee until 22 seconds before his twosome was announced. ''My cart driver was taking his time,'' Woods said of the shuttle ride from the range. ''Every speed bump, he slowed down to an absolute stop and looked around. We were telling him, 'Hurry up, don't worry about it.''' Then, Woods went through the motions on his way to a double bogey.
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