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Burns avoids Q-School

The 34-year-old wins his first PGA event at the Disney Classic, securing a two-year spot on tour.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 21, 2002

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Bob Burns knew better than to look at the leaderboard. It's hard enough winning a tournament on the PGA Tour. It's worse knowing three of the best players in the world, including everybody's No. 1, are in pursuit.

So Burns went about his business Sunday at the Walt Disney World Resort and kept making birdies on the Magnolia course.

It didn't matter Tiger Woods was making a patented Sunday charge or that David Toms and Chris DiMarco were in the mix.

Burns shot 7-under 65, withstanding Woods' best final-round score in relation to par, to capture his first PGA Tour title and secure a two-year exemption.

"Thankfully, it was only 72 holes," Burns said. "Give Tiger nine more holes and he probably would have had it."

Maybe. Woods, who has 34 tour titles, including five this year, started too far back. He was six behind third-round leader DiMarco, who finished second, and four behind Burns. His 9-under 63 was good for third.

Woods was stunned by the number of low scores at his hometown event.

"It's a joke, don't you think? You have to shoot 20-under par to get in the top 10," Woods said. "There were so many guys. If the wind was blowing out there and if I would have shot this number, then I would have had a pretty good chance to win this tournament. But it (was) pretty calm out there and these guys (were) playing so well."

Burns shot rounds of 63-68-67-65 for 263, 25 under, one shot better than DiMarco and two better than Woods. He collected $666,000 from the $3.7-million purse and jumped from the precarious position of 118th on the money list to 49th.

Oct. 13, Burns was lamenting a missed cut in Las Vegas, which put him in the position of again having to fight for his tour card. Last year, Burns finished 135th on the money list and had to return to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, where he tied for second.

This time, he said he was going to win -- and did.

"It makes me appreciate it, but it also makes me wonder why I have not done it before because it is so simple," said Burns, 34, whose last victory came at the 1998 Tour Championship. "In my mind, it was so simple. Maybe I was predestined. I said I was going to win, and I went out and that is all I thought about. Maybe there is something to that. It is pretty powerful. It is pretty impressive. I am still kind of amazed."

DiMarco, who led after the second and third rounds, took a two-shot lead into the final 18 over Burns, Skip Kendall and Scott Hoch. But he saw Woods make up a six-stroke difference over 10 holes, and despite birdie at the final hole, came up short, shooting 68.

"I shot 4 under and I'm proud of that," DiMarco said. "He shot 65, and that's a good round on Sunday. He never won before, so my hat is off to him. He came out and beat me and that's what it's all about out here."

Burns and his caddie agreed he wouldn't look at the leaderboard until he got to 24 under. That helped because Woods was making a charge.

Woods started the final round six behind DiMarco and four back of Burns, but shot 31 on the front side and finished with 63, matching his lowest round in the final round of a PGA event and the best in relation to par (9 under).

"It could have been a lot lower than that," said Woods, attempting to make the largest final-day comeback of his career.

"It could have been, realistically, probably about 60. I missed two short ones (putts) and the two eagle putts I had on the front nine, one broke the wrong way at the hole and the other one was a half-inch short right in the middle."

A birdie at the 18th would have putt some heat on Burns, and Woods did everything to give himself a chance. His 7-iron approach from 185 yards stopped 6 feet from the cup. "I just pulled it," Woods said.

That meant Burns had a two-shot cushion, and he hit all four greens in regulation coming in, narrowly missing two birdies.

He became the 16th first-time winner this season, but only the fifth to do so with Woods in the field.

"That is pretty cool," Burns said. "There are not a whole lot of guys who can say that out here. It is a treat. It is a treat to beat 143 players this week."

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