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Weekley's chips save first U.S. PGA Tour win

Weekley's chips save first U.S. PGA Tour win

Boo Weekley didn't blow his latest chance for a first U.S. PGA Tour victory, chipping in on the final two holes to hold off Ernie Els and win the Verizon Heritage on Monday.
Weekley looked as if he would give back all of a three-shot lead after his bogey on the 16th hole and his muffed chip behind the 17th green. Weekley followed the blunder with a 40-foot, par-saving chip to keep a one-stroke lead.
But then Weekley had his troubles on Harbour Town's lighthouse hole, No. 18. He chipped across the green and into the fluffy rough down a short slope. Once again, Weekley's short game saved him, this time rolling it from 36 feet away.
"Unreal," Weekley said. "This is unreal."
The Big Easy, bidding for his first tour win since 2004, lost his chance on No. 17, driving into the hazard behind the green for a bogey. Els made things interesting, though, putting his second shot _ and last opportunity to tie _ at the 18th inside 2 feet.
"I don't think I want to see this replay," Els said, smiling.
Weekley finished with a 68 and was one in front of Els (70 ) and two ahead of Stephen Leaney (68). Masters champion Zach Johnson continued his inspired play a week after slipping on the green jacket with a 71 to finish sixth.
Weekley had gained the sympathy of golfers everywhere last month when he missed a 3-footer on the 72nd hole of the Honda Classic that would've given him the outright win. Instead, the 33-year-old Weekley fell into a four-man playoff eventually won by Mark Wilson.
Weekley got it done this time.
He trailed Leaney by three shots early on, but moved to the front with an eagle on No. 5 and a birdie one hole later.
Weekley missed a 5-foot par try to open the door for Els until dramatically closing it with his two chips.
Along with $972,000 (euro717,000) and a U.S. PGA Tour exemption through 2008, Weekley becomes the first tour winner to qualify for next year's Masters after Augusta National chairman Billy Payne restored a privilege taken away in 1999.
"I don't think the plaid's going to fit me," said Weekley, picking at his tartan winner's coat. "I'd like to have a green one to go along with."
Difficulties with the weather on Sunday forced the tournament to finish on Monday for the first time since Jose Coceres defeated Billy Mayfair in a 2001 playoff.
The Heritage probably has never had a champion like Weekley, whose nickname comes from Yogi Bear's sidekick, Boo Boo. Weekley played golf for a year or so at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia until it did away with the golf program "for bullriding or something like that."
When asked about being allergic to cotton products, Weekley compared it to ringworm, where "little pus pockets pop up on your skin there."
He didn't mind the Sunday delay until Monday because he had stayed up too late on Saturday playing cards. Weekley's preparation for the final round last night? "Ate about a handful of jelly beans and called it quits," he said.
Els had opened the tournament with two 65s and appeared ready to win. Still, it's his seventh top-10 finish in nine visits to Harbour Town.
Jerry Kelly, who used a hole-in-one on Saturday to take the third-round lead, was still two shots in front at 15-under after an eagle on the par-5 second. His chance to end a nearly five-year-old victory drought slipped away when he drove into the water on No. 10. He finished with a 77.
Winds, though not as fierce as on Sunday, continued to whip off Calibogue Sound, tilting flagsticks on Harbour Town's three closing holes when play resumed at 8 a.m.
Winds were so strong on Sunday that marshal William Millon was hit by a falling tree limb. He was taken by ambulance and released from Hilton Head Regional Medical Center with minor injuries later that day, Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot said.