Champion: Vijay Singh, Fiji
Site: Whistling Straits -- Kohler, Wisc.
Date: Aug. 12-15
Par: 36-36--72 (7,514 yards)
Field: 156 Cut at 150 (73 players advanced)
HAVEN, Wis. (AP) -- The only birdie Vijay Singh made all day was the only one that mattered.
All but counted out of the PGA Championship with a putter that failed him, Singh took advantage of a late collapse by Justin Leonard to get into a three-way playoff Sunday at Whistling Straits, then made the only birdie over the three extra holes to win the final major of the year.
It was an amazing turnaround for the 41-year-old Fijian, whose career is defined by second chances.
Despite closing with a 4-over 76 -- the highest winning score ever by a PGA champion -- and taking 34 putts in regulation, Singh nearly drove the green on the first of three playoff holes and made a 6-foot putt.
Leonard and Chris DiMarco never had a good look at birdie in the playoff, and they stood helplessly on the 18th green as Singh tapped in from 2 feet for par on the 18th for his third career major.
Leonard, playing in the final group at the PGA Championship for the third time, took 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, the last one dropping him into a playoff that never should have happened.
Singh, who won for the fifth time this year, took advantage.
"It was sad to see someone win it the way I did," Singh said. "The putter kind of fell asleep on me a little bit. I got new life when he missed the putt on the last hole."
DiMarco had an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th in regulation that he left short. He closed with a 71, the only player in the final nine groups to break par as Whistling Straits finally lived up to its fearsome reputation.
The consolation for DiMarco was a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, moving to No. 8 in the standings.
Leonard needed a victory to earn play on his first Ryder Cup team since his miracle putt at Brookline in 1999 and now must wait to see if U.S. Captain Hal Sutton considered his performance at the PGA Championship worthy of a wild-card pick. He closed with a 75.
They finished at 8-under 280. Ernie Els and Chris Riley each bogeyed the last hole to finish one shot behind, although Riley made his first Ryder Cup team, bumping Steve Flesch (76) and Jay Haas (77) out of the top 10.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson still had an outside chance to win his second major of the year until he missed a 15-foot birdie on the 17th and then hit into the bunker and finished with a bogey for a 74, dropping him into a tie for sixth. He needed a birdie on the 18th to become the first player to finish in the top 3 at all four majors.
"It's been a great year for me in the majors," Mickelson said. "I feel like I'm really onto something good, and I'm looking forward to next year. I'm sorry we have such a long way to go."
It was a crushing year for Els, who was the runner-up in the Masters and Open Championship and shot 80 from the final group in the U.S. Open. He rallied too late at Whistling Straits, and a three-putt bogey from some 90 feet on the last hole cost him another chance at a major.
Tiger Woods bogeyed two of the first four holes and wound up with a 73 to finish in a tie for 24th, his worst finish in the majors this year and extending his streak to 10 majors without winning, matching his longest drought.
I didn't win, and it's very disappointing," Woods said. "It's not like I haven't traveled down this road before. And hopefully, it will be the same result."
After his last 10-major drought, Woods won seven of the next 11.
The only thing Woods could celebrate -- and don't break out the champagne -- was that he narrowly kept his No. 1 ranking, breaking Greg Norman's record by being atop the world ranking for 332 weeks in his career.
Singh likely will move to No. 2 in the world and might be one tournament away from a number that will show what everyone already believes -- best in the world.
The Fijian never would have dreamed this possible -- not when he was grinding as a club pro in Borneo, not even as he stood on the 16th tee Sunday, down two shots to Leonard.
Leonard, enduring his worst season in 10 years on tour, came to the rescue.
His best shot of the round was a 3-iron from 198 yards into a stiff breeze on the 518-yard 15th to within 10 feet. A birdie would have given him a three-shot lead with three holes to play, but he lipped out. Leonard then missed a 5-foot par putt on the 16th that narrowed his lead to one.
From the middle of the 18th fairway, a slight breeze at his back, he hit 5-iron into the thick grass surrounding a sunken bunker short of the green, Leonard chipped out to 12 feet and had that putt to win his second major. It again caught the lip, giving Singh and DiMarco new life.
"It's hard to win a tournament, much less a major, when you do that," Leonard said.
Nothing was easy on Sunday, when Whistling Straits beat up the best players with a combination of stiff wind and no water on the course overnight, which made it firm and hard. Plus, the longest course in major championship history was stretched to 7,536 yards by moving most pins to the back of the greens.
It wasn't a monster, but it had plenty of bite.
Mickelson found out in a hurry, taking a double-bogey on the par-3 third hole when he went into a bunker, blasted across the green, chipped about 5 feet long and missed the putt. Lefty spent the rest of the day trying to catch up, a tough task as the wind got stronger.
Singh suffered the deepest gash.
Tied for the lead with Leonard, he pulled his 4-iron down the side of the hill into a bunker. With no room in the sand to plant his feet, the 6-foot-3 Fijian had to stoop over to play his shot, and he couldn't quite get it up the hill, landing in another bunker on his way to a double-bogey.
Leonard, suddenly equipped with a two-shot lead, managed to escape significant damage with three straight par saves that signaled this might finally be his day at the PGA Championship after near-misses at Winged Foot in 1997 and Hazeltine two years ago.
But there was a slight hitch.
Standing over a 4-footer for par on the par-3 seventh, he had a chance to take a three-shot lead when he badly pulled the putt for his first bogey, and it was a sign of how the rest of the round would unfold.
Leonard twice had great birdie chances to put some room between him and Singh, but a 6-footer at the 11th and a 12-footer at the 12th never came close, and he missed four putts -- one of them for birdie -- over the final five holes. Any of them would have been enough to win.
Copyright (c)2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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