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Leonard's drought finally comes to end with Texas Open win

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Justin Leonard told himself it would be okay if he didn't win the Texas Open. It wouldn't be the end of the world.

"But boy, it'd sure be nice," thought Leonard, who hadn't won a PGA title since 1998.

He put an end to his drought Sunday by shooting 6-under-par 64 to beat Mark Wiebe by five strokes.

"It's a big relief," said Leonard, who finished second at the Texas Open in 1995 and 1998. He skipped the tournament last year for the Ryder Cup.

"I don't read a lot of golf magazines. I don't watch a lot of golf on television. But I know that I haven't won in 21/2 years," he said. "It's nice. It's like a little burden lifted, not that I went out every week thinking about it."

Sunday's victory was Leonard's first since the 1998 Players Championship.

Entering the final round with a two-stroke lead over Wiebe, Leonard had seven birdies against one bogey to finish at 19-under 261.

Leonard earned $468,000 with the victory, his first in his home state.

"I think he was going to play the same way no matter what. We could've been in Timbuktu," Wiebe said.

Wiebe, a 20-year tour veteran who has not won since 1986, kept pace with Leonard for most of the round with five birdies but couldn't close the gap.

Leonard birdied No. 18 as Wiebe faltered with his only bogey of the day.

Leonard started the round 13 under and was 15 under after nine holes with birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 8. Wiebe kept it close with birdies on Nos. 4, 8, 11 and 12, but Leonard maintained the lead by playing the back nine 4 under.

"Any time I got any mojo going at all, he silenced me with a birdie," Wiebe said.

LPGA SAFEWAY CHAMPIONSHIP: Mi Hyun Kim survived triple bogey on the 17th hole and a two-hole sudden-death playoff against fellow South Korean Jeong Jang to win in Portland, Ore.

Kim, the 1999 Rookie of the Year, gave up the lead twice to Jang on the back nine, but she forced the playoff with birdie on 18 as she shot 72 to finish with a three-day total of 215.

Both parred the first playoff hole. On the second extra hole, Jang missed a 4-foot putt for a bogey before Kim sank her 2-foot birdie putt for the victory.

New Zealand's Marnie McGuire (72) and Sweden's Annika Sorenstam (73) were one shot back.

Aree Wongluekiet, 14, of Bradenton shot 77 for 4-over-par 220, which tied her for 13th. She was one of five co-leaders after Saturday's round.

BANK ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: Larry Nelson, the hottest player on the Senior PGA Tour the past six months, overcame a chilly Texas norther and light rain to shoot 4-under-par 68 and win by a stroke in Dallas, his tour-best fifth victory of the year. Club pro Bill Brask birdied the last hole for 70 to finish second at 204 along with Jim Thorpe, who also shot 70 as winds gusted to 25 mph in the 63-degree weather.

BELGACOM OPEN: Lee Westwood won in Knokke, Belgium, by four strokes, the second time in three years he has captured the event. He became the top money winner on the European PGA Tour with $2,005,632. The Englishman closed with 6-under 65 to finish at 18-under 266, his fifth victory of the season.

PGA CUP: Former PGA Club Pro champion Jeff Freeman had a two-putt par from 40 feet to close out his match on the 17th as the United States held on to defeat a team of club pros from Britain and Ireland. Brian Gaffney helped with a 2-and-1 victory in a driving rain in Newport, Wales, giving the Americans their eighth consecutive victory in the matches patterned after the Ryder Cup. The United States leads the series 13-4-3.

MEN'S SENIOR AMATEUR: Vinny Giles shot 1-under-par 70 to take the first-round lead in stroke-play qualifying at Charlotte, N.C. Giles had three birdies and two bogeys as he made a successful return to the site of his 1972 USGA Men's Amateur victory. Senior British Amateur champion Joel Hirsch was at 71.

MID-SENIOR FOUR-BALL: John Fowler of Odessa and Wayne Rudzewicz of Tampa won the Florida State Golf Association's northern title with birdie on the first playoff hole. Mark Puskarich of Winter Garden and Fred Stones of Orlando won the southern title by three strokes.

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