Weekley's Chips Save First PGA Tour Win

Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 7:32 am

By: News On 6

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) _ Boo Weekley always knew it was a matter of time until he won on the PGA Tour, no matter how many dramatic misses he had.

Weekley erased his very public flub at the Honda Classic last month with two stunning chip-ins that saved par and helped him win the Verizon Heritage on Monday.

Only six weeks ago, Weekley missed a 3-footer on the 72nd hole that would've given him the Honda title. Instead, he slipped into a four-man playoff won by Mark Wilson.

Even when Weekley stumbled at Harbour Town Golf Links, he didn't think back to last month's problems and only to what lay ahead.

``It was just a matter of time getting, I reckon, my stars lined up in the sky,'' Weekley said.

A year from now, those same stars could line up at Augusta National.

Along with $972,000 and a PGA Tour exemption through 2008, Weekley becomes the first PGA 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.''

Weekley nearly squandered a three-shot lead before his heart-stopping finish.

Weekley made bogey on the 16th, then muffed a chip behind the 17th green. He 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. ``It's one of those things, I guess.''

Those things keep happening to Els at Harbour Town. This is his seventh top 10 finish _ and third top 3 _ in nine visits.

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.

Difficulties with the weather Sunday forced the tournament to finish Monday for the first time since Jose Coceres defeated Billy Mayfair in a 2001 playoff.

The Verizon 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 Tifton, Ga., until it did away with the golf program ``for bull riding or something like that.''

He didn't mind the Sunday delay until Monday because he had stayed up too late 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 pick up his first tour victory since 2004. Still, it's his seventh top-10 finish here in nine visits to Harbour Town.

Jerry Kelly, who used a hole-in-one 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 Sunday, continued to whip off Calibogue Sound, tilting flagsticks on Harbour Town's three closing holes when play resumed at 8 a.m.

The sand from a bunker along the left side of No. 16, blown back in the bunker overnight, again covered part of the fairway.

After hitting an approach to the 16th, Glen Day skipped up the fairway, singing, ``We're having a heat wave.'' A group ahead, D.J. Trahan had a black knit winter cap pulled down over his ears.

When Trahan's trio hit into the Harbour Town's famous lighthouse hole, No. 18, their shots at the flag were carried several yards off the green and closer to the near empty grandstands than the cup.

Not everyone had trouble with that windy stretch: Ryan Armour went birdie-birdie-birdie through Nos. 16-18.

Weekley was just glad he made the chips he needed to win.

``I don't know how often that's happened out here on the tour for a win, but it was pretty dramatic for me,'' he said.

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