Bateman wins Buick Open


GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) – The usual stars stayed away from the Buick Open, boosting the chances for the rest of the field.

Brian Bateman still didn’t think he had a shot.

Bateman, who entered 204th on the money list, birdied the final hole Sunday to break a four-way tie and become the improbable winner of the Buick Open by one stroke.

“I didn’t really have any expectations,” he said.

He closed with a 3 under to finish 15-under 273, the highest winning score at Warwick Hills since 1997, to claim his first victory on the PGA Tour. He had finished third in two previous tournaments.

Jason Gore (67), Justin Leonard (67) and Woody Austin (69) finished tied for second. Jim Furyk (70) and Scott Verplank (71) were in a group of five that were two shots behind Bateman.

In a tournament that started in 1958, Bateman was just the second player to birdie 18 for a one-shot victory. Rocco Mediate did it in 2000.

A perfect drive and approach set him up for a 12-footer for birdie, and he made the putt that broke slightly from right to left. When the ball went in on the side of the cup, Bateman buckled his knees, tossed his putter and pumped his fists.

The 34-year-old from Monroe, La., earned an $882,000 check – surpassing his total earnings in all but one of his previous five years on the PGA Tour. He made just over $900,000 in 2004, when he finished a career-best 86th on the money list.

Tiger Woods (with his wife and baby) and Vijay Singh (resting a sore elbow) didn’t play at the Buick Open for the first time since 2001 after combining to win four of the previous five.

While Bateman’s final putt will make the highlights on TV, a putt he made at No. 17 made the win possible – without a playoff. He made an 8-footer for par after missing the green on the par-3 hole.

“I knew I was close with four or five holes left and my putter really bailed me out,” Bateman said.

AP-ES-07-01-07 1825EDT