Weekley earns a trip to the Masters

Published 8:53 pm Monday, April 16, 2007

By By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Augusta National, get ready for Boo Weekley.
Perhaps no one fits the mold of the staid, in-control PGA Tour pro less than Weekley, the 33-year-old country boy from the Florida Panhandle. He punctuates answers with ‘‘reckon’’ and ‘‘ain’t,’’ and one time, in Texas, got so angry with his play, he put a hole in his golf bag with a club.
Now, after his first PGA Tour victory at the Verizon Heritage on Monday, Weekley’s got a spot in next year’s Masters.
Weekley got that chance — and made up for his heartbreaking loss at the Honda Classic last month — with a pair of dramatic, par-saving chips on the 17th and 18th holes to defeat Ernie Els.
Weekley had gained the sympathy of golfers everywhere last month when he missed a 3-footer on the 72nd hole of the Honda Classic that would’ve given him the outright win. Instead, the 33-year-old Weekley fell into a four-man playoff eventually won by Mark Wilson.
Weekley got it done this time.
He nearly squandered a three-shot lead at Harbour Town Golf Links before his heart-stopping finish.
Weekley made bogey on the 16th, then muffed a chip behind the 17th green. He followed the blunder with a 40-foot, par-saving chip to keep a one-stroke lead.
But then Weekley had his troubles on Harbour Town’s lighthouse hole, No. 18. He chipped across the green and into the fluffy rough down a short slope. Once again, Weekley’s short game saved him, this time rolling it from 36 feet away.
Weekley never thought about his Honda gaffe from last month, confident his time in the spotlight would come.
When his first chip fell, Weekley thought ‘‘this could be my day.’’ He knew it about 15 minutes later when he repeated the feat to close out the win.
The Big Easy, bidding for his first tour win since 2004, lost his chance on No. 17, driving into the hazard behind the green for a bogey. Els made things interesting, though, putting his second shot — and last opportunity to tie — at the 18th inside 2 feet.
Weekley finished with a 68 and was one in front of Els (70 ) and two ahead of Stephen Leaney (68). Masters champion Zach Johnson continued his inspired play a week after slipping on the green jacket with a 71 to finish sixth.
Difficulties with the weather Sunday forced the tournament to finish Monday for the first time since Jose Coceres defeated Billy Mayfair in a 2001 playoff.
The Verizon Heritage probably has never had a champion like Weekley, whose nickname comes from Yogi Bear’s sidekick, Boo Boo. Weekley played golf for a year or so at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., until it did away with the golf program ‘‘for bullriding or something like that.’’
When asked about being allergic to cotton products, Weekley compared it to ringworm, where ‘‘little pus pockets pop up on your skin there.’’
He didn’t mind the Sunday delay until Monday because he had stayed up too late Saturday playing cards. Weekley’s preparation for the final round last night? ‘‘Ate about a handful of jelly beans and called it quits,’’ he said.
Els had opened the tournament with two 65s and appeared ready to pick up his first tour victory since 2004. Still, it’s his seventh top-10 finish here in nine visits to Harbour Town.
Jerry Kelly, who used a hole-in-one Saturday to take the third-round lead, was still two shots in front at 15 under after an eagle on the par-5 second. His chance to end a nearly five-year-old victory drought slipped away when he drove into the water on No. 10. He finished with a 77.
Winds, though not as fierce as Sunday, continued to whip off Calibogue Sound, tilting flagsticks on Harbour Town’s three closing holes when play resumed at 8 a.m.
PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White stood off to the side on No. 16 early Monday, hands in pockets, monitoring for the severe gusts that moved resting golf balls off greens a day earlier.
The sand from a bunker along the left side of No. 16, blown back in the bunker overnight, again covered part of the fairway.
After hitting an approach to the 16th, Glen Day skipped up the fairway, singing, ‘‘We’re having a heat wave.’’ A group ahead, D.J. Trahan had a black knit winter cap pulled down over his ears.
When Trahan’s trio hit into the Harbour Town’s famous lighthouse hole, No. 18, their shots at the flag were carried several yards off the green and closer to the near empty grandstands than the cup.
Not everyone had trouble with that windy stretch: Ryan Armour went birdie-birdie-birdie through Nos. 16-18.
Weekley had his troubles with the conditions, too, just less than his competitors. Now that he’s a PGA Tour champion, Weekley expects to be the same fun-loving golfer who’s spent the past four seasons on the Nationwide Tour.