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Black Jack

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Under the cover of darkness, Tiger Woods birdied the 72nd hole at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio to win the $5 million NEC Invitational - by 11 shots.
 
At 21-under-par, Woods more than doubled the score of Justin Leonard and Phillip Price, who tied for 2nd at 10-under. Hal Sutton, who played in the final group with Woods, tied for 4th with Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk.
 
Sunday's final round was suspended for nearly three hours due to rain and lightning. When play was called, Woods and Sutton had yet to complete the first hole.
 
Having taken a nine-shot lead into the final round, Woods could have played left-handed and still won the $1 million dollar first prize. The battle was for the $540,000 second place check.
 
Sutton got off to a great start by birdying three of his first five holes, but bogeyed the 8th, 9th, 10th and 13th to fall out of runner-up contention.
 
Down the stretch, Price had the best chance of earning the more-than-half-million dollar check. At 13-under, Price was two shots clear of Leonard. But in a race against the impending darkness, Price bogeyed the 15th and 16th to fall to 11-under. Entering the home hole - with camera flashes providing the lone source of light - Price still maintained a one-shot advantage over Leonard, who had bogeyed the 18th and posted a 10-under score.
 
Needing to get up and down from the greenside bunker, Price splashed out 10 feet past the hole. With the cup barely in sight, Price missed his par save and slipped into a tie for second with the 1997 British Open champion.
 
'I'm disappointed that I did not finish off,' said Price, who collected $437,500. 'I'll probably stew on that one a little bit. But I think there were so many good things that came out of it, I'm not going to try to dismiss the tied-second.'
 
It didn't appear as if the final round was going to be completed on Sunday. And it wouldn't have had Tiger not held such a commanding lead.
 
'If it had been tied or a one or two-shot lead, we would have probably stopped it on about the 15th,' said Woods.
 
Completing the tournament benefited Woods the most. Monday, he is scheduled to play Sergio Garcia in the $1.5 million made-for-television 'Battle at Bighorn' at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calf.
 
'(I'll host) a clinic from 8:00 to 9:00,' Woods said of his Monday schedule. 'I'll be in the air by 10:00 and out there by about 12:30; tee up at 4:45 and then drive home to L.A.'
 
Battling the flu, Woods shot rounds of 67-67 on the weekend. Not comparable to his first two rounds of 64-61, but still impressive. With an aggregate of 259, Tiger fell two shots short of the all-time PGA TOUR 72-hole scoring record set by Mike Souchak at the 1955 Texas Open.
 
Though he missed Souchak's mark he reached the number set by caddie Steve Williams.
 
'(Steve) was grinding harder on that number than he has on most numbers. He wanted to get to 21 pretty bad,' Woods said.
 
'I don't know why. It has always been his favorite number,' Woods said of his 21-under total. 'He runs in 21-minute intervals and swims that way. Whatever it is, it has to do with 21. That's always been his favorite number.'
 
This is Tiger's third successful title defense in 2000. He becomes the first player since Johnny Miller in 1975 to accomplish that feat.
 
Last week Tiger defended the PGA Championship. He also captured the Memorial Tournament in May for the second straight season.
 
Woods' 8th PGA TOUR victory in 2000 pushes him over the $7.6 million mark in season earnings.