Woods's putter buried his closest pursuer in the third round at Cog Hill. After rolling in a 20-foot bender for birdie at the 16th hole, Woods faced a 20-footer for par at the 18th while Stuart Appleby, in second at the time, had an eight-footer for birdie. In a miss-make scenario, Woods's four-shot lead would have been sliced to two. Instead Woods poured his putt into the middle of the cup and Appleby missed, which prompted the following headline in Sunday morning's Chicago Tribune: CALL THE ENGRAVER
Unlike with DEWEY BEATS TRUMAN, the Tribune got it right this time, although predicting Woods's 10th Tour victory was hardly going out on a limb considering that he had won on six of the seven previous occasions in which he had led after three rounds. Weir, a 29-year-old second-year player from Sarnia, Ont., who lives in the Salt Lake City area, made a token run at Woods. When Weir sank a 20-footer for birdie at the 7th hole and Woods missed his 18-foot try, Weir was within a shot of the lead. Woods made birdie at the next hole, setting the stage for what turned out to be the decisive blow, at the par-410th. Woods drove into the rough and sailed his wedge approach over the green. Weir, playing from the fairway, had a chance to create a two-shot swing but instead dumped his wedge into a bunker. Woods then delivered the fatal shot, hitting a terrific flop shot for a tap-in par. Weir blasted long and missed the comebacker, ending any suspense.
Weir made a pair of birdies on the way in to solidify his position behind Woods and establish himself as a player with promise, although he was quick to admit that he's not in the same class as Woods. "How good is Tiger? He's great," Weir said. "He has shots in his bag that I don't have. When you can step up at the 15th [a 519-yard par-5] and knife a three-iron in there, and I have to hit a good drive and a three-wood just to get to the front of the green, that's impressive."
The $270,000 Weir earned capped the best week of his career and guaranteed that he won't have to return to Q school for a sixth straight year. Two days before the Western, Weir won $143,000 in the Canadian Skins game in Mont Tremblant, Que., against Duval, Fred Couples and John Daly. He birdied six holes in a row and had a score of 61. "That event helped me because in skins you learn to put the last hole behind you," says Weir. "You focus on the next hole because there could be a big carryover."
Weir played well in the sweltering heat and humidity at Cog Hill—his closing 70 was the fourth-best round of the day and a shot better than Woods's score—but over the four days Tiger was simply too much for anyone to handle. Even as he completed his week with an uncharacteristic bogey, Woods was spectacular. He drove into a fairway bunker at the 72nd hole, blasted back to the fairway, then flew a wedge shot past the flag, spinning it back like a yo-yo toward the pin. The crowd roared when Woods's ball caught a piece of the cup on the way past the hole.
Woods has long been a favorite in Chicago, ever since he won the Western Amateur in nearby Benton Harbor, Mich., in 1994. When he won the Western Open two years ago, thousands of excited fans poured onto the 18th fairway on Sunday and marched with him up to the green. Vigilant marshals and energy-sapping heat prevented a repeat of that scene last week, and at the awards ceremony Woods kiddingly said he was disappointed. Then he thanked his many Chicagoland fans. "Every single time I come here I get good vibes," he said.
You can bet he's beginning to feel good about Carnoustie, too.