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Goosen win keeps Tiger in the hunt

Posted: Monday, November 03, 2003

PALM HARBOR, Fla. Tiger Woods might be the first guy to call Retief Goosen and congratulate him for winning the Chrysler Championship on Sunday.

''I'm sure he will,'' Goosen said with a smile.

Goosen made back-to-back birdies late in the final round to turn back a final charge from Vijay Singh, closing with a 1-under 70 for a three-shot victory at Innisbrook.

That means Singh has to wait until the Tour Championship next week in Houston to try to capture the PGA Tour money title and end Woods' four-year reign.

It also kept alive Woods' slim hopes of winning the title for a record fifth straight year.

On a day when several players felt like winners, no one had more cause to celebrate than Goosen, the stoic South African who enhanced his reputation as a tough customer when he's in the lead Sunday afternoon.

He never trailed on the tough Copperhead course, and when Singh made two birdies to cut the lead to one shot, Goosen responded with a 7-iron into 15 feet for birdie on No. 13 and two shots that led to an easy birdie on the par-5 14th.

Singh bogeyed the next hole, allowing Goosen to coast the rest of the way.

''Once I'm out there, I just want to get as far ahead as possible,'' said Goosen, who finished at 12-under 272. ''Luckily, it happened for me again this week.''

The week wasn't a total loss for Singh, who has won or been runner-up in his last four PGA Tour events.

The big Fijian, who could have clinched the money title with a victory, closed with a 70 to finish second alone. He earned $518,400 to extend his lead on the money list to $768,494 over Woods heading to the final tournament of the year.

''I don't think I have to win to win the money title, but I would like to win again next week,'' Singh said. ''I'll figure it out when I get there.''

To spare him the math, Singh only has to finish in a three-way tie for third. Woods has to win the Tour Championship to have any chance.

Chad Campbell (69) could have taken $96,000 out of Singh's lead on the money list. He was tied for second until a triple bogey on the 18th, which sent him to a tie for fourth with Tim Petrovic.

Goosen wasn't the only winner.

Briny Baird (72) finished alone in third to make $326,400, enough to move him up to 22nd on the money list and qualify for his first Tour Championship.

Petrovic (72) fell short of the Tour Championship, but the guy who once worked in a pizza restaurant in the Tampa Bay area still earned enough for a trip to the Masters.

No one went through an emotional roller coaster quite like Jeff Sluman.

He chipped in for eagle on the 11th hole and was poised to move up two spots to No. 40 and earn another trip to the Masters.

But Sluman made bogey on the 17th and 18th to fall into a tie for 14th. If Jose Coceres or Loren Roberts, both playing in the group behind, had birdied the 18th, Sluman would have come up about $900 short of his Masters invitation.

Both made bogey.

''Why do I always have to make it interesting?'' Sluman said after calling his wife to deliver the good news. ''For everything I seemingly screwed up, I hung in there.''

Glen Hnatiuk shot 74 and tied for 49th, but he moved up six spots on the money list to No. 124 to keep his card for next year.

The Canadian kept scrolling down the scores in the locker room after finishing his round, but he was a bottle of nerves and eventually cleaned out his locker and left.

Esteban Toledo of Mexico, who was disqualified for taking an improper drop at Disney that Marco Dawson didn't report for two days, finished at No. 125, but not by much.

Thomas Levet needed a birdie on the 18th hole to knock Toledo out, but missed the green to the right and could only manage a par.

The tournament turned out to be a pretty good show, too.

Goosen started the final round with a two-stroke lead over Baird, but he figured it would come down to him and Singh, who was three shots behind.

After opening with a birdie to expand his lead, Goosen pulled his approach on No. 2 and was in such a difficult lie in the rough that he had to open the blade of his sand wedge for a flop shot. He was lucky to reach the fringe, then left his par putt 10 feet short.

Singh rifled his approach within 8 feet for birdie, and Goosen calmly made his bogey putt for only a two-shot swing that set the tone for the afternoon.

Both exchanged birdies and bogeys until Goosen pulled away with a birdie on No. 10 for a three-shot lead.

Singh wouldn't go away easily. He birdied the next two holes to get to within one shot of Goosen, but that was as close as he got.

''He's too good of a player to mess up,'' Singh said.

Woods didn't play this week, and will have played nine fewer events than Singh. Another money title will require nothing short of a victory for Woods, and he'll have to hope that Singh has an off week.

Singh hasn't had one of those since August.

Divots: Hank Kuehne finished the year No. 1 in driving distance at 321 yards. John Daly had won that category the last eight years. ... Ernie Els didn't play particularly well, finishing at 1-over 285. But he had nothing but praise for the Copperhead course at Innisbrook, calling it the best course the PGA Tour plays in Florida. ... The losers Sunday were Rocco Mediate (bumped from the Tour Championship), and Rory Sabbatini and John Huston (bumped from the top 40 and a Masters invitation).



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