Originally created 07/09/01

Hoch wins Western Open in a thriller



LEMONT, Ill. -- As the ball dropped into the cup, Scott Hoch raised his putter in triumph and tilted his head back in relief, a wide smile lighting up his face.

Hoch made a 1 1/2 -foot putt on the 18th Sunday to win the Western Open by one stroke, setting a tournament record with a 21-under 267 total. He finished with an 8-under 64.

Davis Love III, who led for most of the day, made a costly mistake on the 18th tee, launching his drive so far left it almost hit the corporate tents. Love recovered, reaching the green in three shots, but his 12-foot putt for par lost speed as it reached the hole and slid by on the left side.

That left it all for Hoch, who cooly sank the putt for his second victory of the season. He won $648,000 with the victory, giving him $2,504,686 for the season. That's a career high, and the first time he has surpassed $2 million in one season.

Hoch's 267 is the lowest in the 99-year history of the Western Open. The previous overall low was 20-under 268, set by Sam Snead in 1949 at Keller in St. Paul, Minn. Chi Chi Rodriguez also shot a 268 in 1964 on the par-71 Tam O'Shanter in Niles.

The old record at Cog Hill was 19-under 269, done by Nick Price in 1993.

Mike Weir and Brandel Chamblee finished eight strokes back at 275. Tiger Woods was never a factor, shooting a 71 that left him 13 strokes back in a tie for 20th.

With a tie for 12th in the U.S. Open and a tie for 16th in the Buick Classic, Woods has finished out of the top 10 in his last three tournaments. It's the first time that's happened since 1998.

"It's not like I am struggling to break 90 out there," he said. "I struggled today, yes, but I am still shooting under-par rounds. I finished decently, I guess.

"You have one week, two weeks before (the British Open) starts, there's a lot of things I can do between now and then."

Phil Mickelson, who started the day just five strokes back, plummeted off the leaderboard with a quadruple bogey on the par-4 No. 3. He shot a 76 to finish 16 strokes back.

Mickelson's drive on the 4th sailed into trees and was unplayable, forcing him to take a drop. He got too aggressive with his next shot, trying to bend it around the tree, and it caught a limb and ricocheted back into another unplayable spot.

He finally laid up and reached the green on his next shot, but he two-putted for an 8 that left him 6 under for the tournament.

And the worst part of all? Mickelson's provisional drive landed in the middle of the fairway, less than 100 yards from the green.

"It's possible to recover, but my chance at winning was pretty much shot," he said. "I just didn't turn it around."

Love began the day with a one-stroke lead over Hoch, who finally caught up on the par-3 12th. Hoch's 25-foot putt sprinted for the cup, hit the back and slammed in for the birdie.

Love had to settle for par when his 35-foot par putt missed by an inch or two, leaving him tied with Hoch at 18 under.

But Love didn't let Hoch share his spot on the leaderboard for long. On the par-4 13th, he put his second shot about 15 inches from the pin and tapped in for a birdie. He added another on the par-3 14th, landing his tee shot about within 2 feet.

Hoch birdied No. 14, too, but it still left him a stroke back.

Love ran into some trouble on No. 16, a long par-4. His second shot was heading for a clump of trees before it dropped and landed in some rough downhill from the green.

Trying to get up and onto the green, Love put a little too much power into his second shot and landed in a trap on the other side. He blasted out to 3 feet, making the putt for a bogey.

But Hoch couldn't take advantage, as his 12-foot birdie putt stopped about a foot short. Hoch swung his putter like a baseball bat, but he couldn't move it any farther along.

When he tapped in, Hoch closed his eyes and tipped his head back in frustration. He then tapped his head with his finger.

Love knocked in an 18-foot for a birdie on the 17th, but Hoch matched him to set up the drama on 18.

Divots: Dudley Hart's drive on the par-5 9th flew into a garbage can. He still ended up with a par. ... Attendance for the week was 197,715, the highest since 1997, when Woods won his first Western Open title. ... The total purse for the Western Open was a record $3.6 million. The tournament is sponsored by Advil.