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Mike Weir Wins Spain Golf

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SOTOGRANDE, Spain (AP) — The diabolical par-5 17th at Valderrama again showed that it plays no favorites.

But Canadian Mike Weir parred the 17th Sunday just minutes before winning $1 million at the American Express Championship by shooting a 3-under 69 to finish two strokes ahead of England's Lee Westwood.

Weir was able to rebound from his second-round struggle on the 17, a hole that caused problems for a handful of players on Sunday. Weir almost played himself out of the tournament when he hit two approaches on to the green, and both were funneled — with a bit of backspin — down the sloping green into the pond guarding the front edge.

``I'm happy to come out on top,'' Weir said. ``I'm more happy with the way I rebounded from Friday. I made 8 on 17, and I was 10 shots, nine shots out of the lead going into the weekend.''

Actually, he was eight behind Nick Price.

Price and Tiger Woods both struggled Sunday at 17 as they chased the 30-year-old Canadian.

Price, playing two groups in front of Weir and trailing by one, hit two short approaches over the pond, and both rolled into the water. The even-tempered Price was out of it with a triple-bogey eight and raced off the course without comment.

Woods has had problems with 17 dating to last year's tournament and the 1997 Ryder Cup.

Trailing Weir by two shots and playing one group in front of him, Woods found the water on 17 — the fourth time in five rounds he landed there on the tricky course in deep southern Spain. Woods took a double-bogey 7, and his chase was over.

``Every ball I've hit in the water there have been good shots,'' Woods said. ``It's just indicative of the hole. It is not a very well-designed hole and unfortunately if you just walk around the bank — look how many balls are in the water.''

Woods picked up a triple-bogey 8 on 17 in the final round a year ago, forcing a playoff he won over Miguel Angel Jimenez. He also hit the water three years ago in the Ryder Cup.

The event shifts to Bellerive in St. Louis next year, and Mount Juliet in Ireland in 2002.

``I'm glad we're not going to come back ever again,'' Woods said.

That is sure to distress the billionaire owner of Valderrama, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, who takes pride in the nearly perfect playing conditions and abundant cork trees at a layout some call ``Europe's Augusta.''

Weir, who finished at 11-under 277, was more diplomatic calling it a ``precise'' course. He even spoke well of No. 17, where 11 players in the 55-man field found water over the four rounds.

``The 17th is very difficult hole, controversial I guess,'' he said. ``But it adds to the flavor of this event and this golf course.''

Weir, whose only other win came last season in the Air Canada Championship in Vancouver, took pleasure in beating Woods. For the third straight week, Woods was two strokes off the lead in the final round and came up short.

``It's a huge win, a world championship,'' the left-hander said. ``With the quality of the field, that's what makes it so special. Any time Tiger plays in the tournament you win, it makes you feel great because he's far and away the best player in the game right now.''

Westwood earned $500,000 for finishing second, enough to move ahead of good friend Darren Clarke on the final European tour money list. Westwood claimed the Order of Merit, ending the amazing seven-year reign of Colin Montgomerie.

``It's more emotional than I have ever been,'' said Westwood, who finished $346,000 ahead of Clarke, plus a British pound from a bet they made with each other in August.

``There was nothing quite like today, playing that well under this kind of pressure. I think if you watch the highlights tonight, you'll see my knees shaking.''

Westwood finished the season with $2,657,780 in earnings. Clarke, who shot a 2-under 70 to finish at even-par 288, finished with European tour winnings of $2,311,740.

Duffy Waldorf (69) and Vijay Singh (68) were three back with four players four strokes off the pace — Woods (72), Padraig Harrington (70), Price (72) and Spain's Sergio Garcia (64).

Hidemichi Tanaka, who had a one-stroke lead over Weir to start the final round, stumbled to a 77 and 4-under 284.

Montgomerie, who had to win to have any chance of taking his eighth European money title, finished with a 74 for a 1-over 289. Montgomerie ended No. 6 on the money list at $1,480,573.





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