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Sweet Success for Sauers in Canada

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SURREY, British Columbia -- Gene Sauers posted a bogey-free, 2-under-par 69 in Sunday's final round to win the Air Canada Championship by one shot at Northview Golf & Country Club near Vancouver. The victory was Sauers' third on the PGA Tour and his first since the 1989 Hawaiian Open.
 
'It's a dream come true,' said Sauers, whose 13-year, seventh-month span between wins ranks as the third longest in PGA Tour history. 'I've been hitting the ball really well the last couple of months. I was hoping for this opportunity to come up.'
 
The 40-year-old Sauers, who hasn't been fully exempt on the PGA Tour since 1996, earned the winner's check worth $630,000 -- nearly $200,000 more than he made in 1992, his previous best season money-wise.
 
But the native of Savannah, Ga., said the big key was gaining a two-year exemption on tour.
 
'Six rounds of torture,' Sauers said of PGA Tour Qualifying School he'll get to bypass this fall. 'That is a big monkey off my back.'
 
Sauers secured the title by converting a tricky two-putt par at the 18th hole and finished at 15-under 269.
 
Steve Lowery, who missed an eight-foot birdie attempt at 18 that would have forced the first playoff in the seven-year history of the event, closed with a 3-under 68 for a 72-hole total of 14-under-par 270. The second-place finish was his third in his last six events.
 
'I didn't lose the golf tournament. I played all the way to the end,' said Lowery, who was also the Air Canada runner-up last year. 'I tried to hit some aggressive shots coming in. I just couldn't quite get the putts to go in.'
 
Sauers began the final round with a one-stroke lead at 13-under. He remained at that number with six pars in a row out of the gate before pushing two shots ahead with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 seventh.
 
Another four pars -- including a clutch 15-foot save at the ninth -- left Sauers at 14-under. Then Lowery, who was two back at the start and fell even further off the pace with a bogey at the second hole, tallied his fourth birdie in six holes at the par-5 12th to match Sauers atop the leaderboard.
 
Sauers, playing in the group behind Lowery, regained the lead with an eight-foot birdie putt when he came through the 12th. Lowery drew even again thanks to a 12-footer for birdie at the 14th, but he gave the stroke back at the par-3 16th when his bunker shot skipped across the green and he failed to get up and down to save par.
 
Steady Sauers finished the same way he started, with six straight pars. He made only two bogeys all week, tied for first in fairways hit (11 of 14 each day) and was ranked No. 1 in putting with an average of 26 putts per round.
 
'Obviously I'm happy for Gene,' said Lowery, who has collected over $1 million in his last four starts. 'He's been a good player. He had a dry spell and now he is back, so you have to be happy for him.'
 
Sauers, who was playing in his only his fourth PGA Tour event of the season and just his sixth in the last two years, didn't have the benefit of a practice round at Northview, a course he played once before when he tied for 51st at the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open.
 
The seventh alternate coming into this week, Sauers didn't learn he was in the field until Monday. He flew in from Georgia on Tuesday, but would be without his clubs until the following afternoon due to a luggage mix-up.
 
Sauers captured his first PGA Tour title at the 1986 Bank of Boston Classic, where he defeated Blaine McCallister in a three-hole playoff. He won the 1989 Hawaiian Open by one stroke over David Ogrin, then a year later posted an unofficial victory at the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic.
 
In recent years Sauers played on the Buy.Com Tour, winning the South Carolina Classic in 1998. His win this week came on the heels of back-to-back top-10 finishes on the Buy.Com Tour in August, while his last top-10 on the PGA Tour came at the 1997 Texas Open.
 
Vijay Singh, the highest ranked player in the field this week at No. 9 in the world, made six birdies and no bogeys in a 65. He shared third place at 271 with second-round leader Craig Barlow (68) and Australian Robert Allenby (70).
 
Tom Scherrer matched the low round of the day with a 65 to finish alone in sixth at 12-under 272. It was his first top-10 on tour since he finished fourth at the 2000 Michelob Championship.
 
Peter Lonard, just one shot out of the lead with fellow Aussie Allenby when the day began, stumbled from the start with a double-bogey at the second hole and bogeys at the third and fifth. Three birdies on the back nine helped him to a 1-over 72 and a tie for seventh at 11-under with David Gossett (68), who double-bogeyed the final hole after he hit his approach into the water.
 
Rounding out a trio of Australians in the top-10 was John Senden, who climbed to 12-under with a 32 on the front nine followed by three consecutive birdies on the back. But like Gossett, he rinsed his second shot in the water at the 430-yard, par-4 home hole and closed with a double-bogey.
 
Senden, who still managed a 5-under 66, tied for ninth with Harrison Frazar (66) and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke (69) at minus 10.
 
Final results from the Air Canada Championship