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Two failed gambles doom Leonard to defeat

Justin Leonard went right at the flag on No. 18 at Whistling Straits twice Sunday afternoon. He came up short both times, and those failures proved the difference between victory and defeat for him.

HAVEN, Wis. (AP) -- Justin Leonard thought the Wanamaker Trophy had his name on it when he hit a 5-iron and watched the ball sail over Seven Mile Creek guarding the front of the 18th green.

"I thought I'd just ended this golf tournament," he said.

But the ball came up just short, in heavy grass around a pot bunker left of the four-leaf clover-shaped green. Suddenly, Leonard's luck had run out.

He chipped about 12 feet short of the hole, and lipped out the putt that would have won the PGA Championship.

Vijay Singh, who hadn't made a single birdie all afternoon, birdied the first hole of the three-hole, three-way playoff to beat Leonard and Chris DiMarco.

DiMarco's consolation was a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He entered the week in 15th place and jumped seven spots to No. 8 to secure an automatic spot on the American team.

Leonard needed to win to earn a Ryder Cup berth and now can get in only if he is one of Hal Sutton's two captain's picks.

"I would love to be picked. I could help the U.S. win the Ryder Cup," Leonard said. "But I also know there are a lot of guys ahead of me who have played well in the last three years. I'm just now starting to play well. I'm not expecting to get picked. I won't be disappointed."

Not like he was when he watched his aggressive shot on 18 fall short.

"Really, I was trying to hit at the hole. If I try to play safe, hit it over the right, I've got a really hard two putts," Leonard said.

Leonard took the same gamble in the playoff. He had no choice then. Singh was a shot ahead and was safely on the green in two. This time, Leonard's shot was better, if just barely, but it didn't matter.

Playing in the final group at the PGA Championship for the third time, Leonard had taken a two-shot lead with five holes to play with an 18-foot birdie putt. But he missed four putts inside 12 feet down the stretch.

DiMarco was watching Leonard's collapse from the clubhouse and hustled out to take one practice drive, which he hit right down the fairway.

DiMarco had an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th in regulation that he left less than a foot short. He closed with a 71, the only player in the final nine groups to break par.

"To shoot 71 on this course on Sunday, I'm proud of myself," DiMarco said.

DiMarco said he'd love to see another major at Whistling Straits but with a revamped final hole, a sentiment that Leonard would agree with.

"The golf course was a lot more difficult today," Leonard said. "I think what ultimately cost me the tournament was my putting. I missed about four putts inside of 10 feet on the back nine. It's pretty hard to win a golf tournament, much less a major, when you do something like that."

Was there one putt that will haunt him?

"Any one of them," he said. "All I needed was one of them to go in. Obviously, 15 and 16 being so close to the end of the round, if either one of them would have fallen, it would have been a different story."

Copyright (c)2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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