A Memorable Final Round in Michigan


GRAND BLANC, Mich.--This, tournament director Mike Mattucci said on the eve of the final round, couldn't have been scripted any better.

The field for the Buick Open was not deep. But all the stars--the so-called 'needle movers'--rose to the top of the leaderboard during the course of the week.

During one giddy moment, late Saturday, it looked like Tiger Woods and
John Daly would be playing together in the penultimate group. The two have never been paired on a Sunday of a PGA Tour event.

What we got instead was eventual champion Vijay Singh and Daly in the final group and Woods-Carlos Franco right in front of them. All of which led to delicious speculation as to who the energetic and very vocal Michigan fans would support.

Vartan Kupelian, the long-time and highly-respected golf writer for the
Detroit News, opined that it would be a 50-50 split. The blue collar,
Flint-area fans, he said, would go for Daly. The golf aficionados, he supposed would get behind Woods.

Steve DuPlantis, the caddie for Daniel Chopra, was more blunt. 'The drunks will be for Daly,' He said. 'And they're much louder.'

Almost as entertaining was the nature of this Buick Open. Warwick Hills is a relatively short (7,127 yards) par 72 layout by PGA Tour standards. The greens, softened by substantial early week rains, accepted approach shots like they were darts. Players knew they had to make birdies or get trampled.

Defending champion Jim Furyk, who hit 28 of 28 fairways the first two days, teed off tied for the lead Saturday. He shot 2-under for the round and found himself five shots behind Singh before he pushed a peg in the ground Sunday. It was Furyk's 24th straight round under par at Warwick Hills, prompting one wag to suggest they change the name of the place to 'Furyk Hills.'
Yet it left him three groups behind the leaders on Sunday.
In the end, Singh outlasted Daly and the furious charge Daly mounted at the outset. Daly started birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie and led Singh by a shot for much of the round.
But Singh just kept making all the putts he needed to make, something Woods was unable to do. It is interesting to note that Singh returned to the conventional or 'short' putter at the Buick Open. It's the same length putter with which he won his two major championships. Singh has now won eight tournaments on the PGA Tour in the last 18 months. Ignore his chances at the PGA Championship the week after next at your own peril.
Meanwhile admit that CBS-TV and the Buick Open caught lightning in a bottle with a field that delivered more than it promised. One of these days we're going to get Daly and Woods in the final round in the final group in one of these things. That's the only way it's going to get any better than it was Sunday in Michigan.
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