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Ga. Tech's Kuchar wins Barclays on first playoff hole

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Matt Kuchar's fortunes took quite a turn Sunday, and so did his golf ball.

Kuchar beat Martin Laird in a playoff at The Barclays with a shot out of the rough that rolled toward the back of the 18th green, then caught enough of the slope to turn back toward the hole and stop 30 inches away for a birdie.

It was a stunning conclusion to the first FedEx Cup playoff event.

Kuchar closed with a 5-under 66, and it didn't look as though it would be enough. Laird had a one-shot lead and needed two putts from just inside 25 feet for the victory, when he ran his putt 7 feet past the hole. He missed the par putt, setting up the playoff.

The timing could not have been better for Kuchar.

His first victory of the year came two weeks after he made his first Ryder Cup team, and the win can only give him a shot of confidence. Kuchar moved to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings by winning the first playoff event, giving him a good shot at the $10 million prize. And his third career win is likely to move him to a career-best No. 10 in the world ranking.

Tiger Woods continues to make progress, which in this case means he gets to keep going.

Woods, who started these playoffs at No. 112 in the standings, closed with a 4-under 67 to easily make the top 100 who advance to the second round next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods tied for 12th, his best finish since June, and moved up to No. 65.

Laird, who recovered from a shaky start, looked just as shaky at the end, especially with his putter.

He was tied for Kuchar when he had a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 17th, only to roll it nearly 8 feet beyond the hole. He made that birdie putt to take the lead, then repeated his mistake on the final hole in regulation.

This time, the comeback putt never had a chance. Neither did Laird in the playoff after Kuchar's shot stopped so close to the cup. Laird hit out of the rough to about 50 feet and made par.

The only consolation for Laird was being safe through next month in the playoffs. He was at No. 95, hopeful of advancing to the second round, and his runner-up finish puts him at No. 3 and virtually guarantees he'll be among the top 30 at the Tour Championship who compete for the $10 million prize.

Steve Stricker closed with a 66 to tie for third with Kevin Streelman, whose parents grew up in this neighborhood and whose grandparents are buried in a cemetery next to the seventh hole. Two years ago at Ridgewood, Streelman narrowly missed a playoff. He also was on the bubble, starting at No. 102, and moved up to No. 18.

Rory Sabbatini had the low round of the day at 64 and tied for fifth.

The other big winner Sunday was Andres Romero of Argentina. He made back-to-back double bogeys to fall well outside the top 100, then made a stunning charge with four birdies over his last five holes. Romero holed a 40-foot putt on his final hole to finish at No. 100 in the standings and advance to Boston.

"After the double bogeys, I figured it was lost," Romero said. "I knew I had to make birdies to have a chance."

Woods thought he had a chance, despite starting the final round nine shots behind. Practicing a drill on the putting green to keep his eyes over the ball, he took that to the course and played another solid round. It wasn't nearly enough -- he finished five shots behind -- but he was encouraged by his play heading into next week at the TPC Boston.

"I haven't won all year," Woods said. "But this is a week that I was very close. I felt that if I would have putted better for all four days, I would have been right there. Looking forward to next week."

LPGA TOUR: Michelle Wie closed with a 2-under 70 Sunday for a three-shot win at the CN Canadian Women's Open, her second career victory on the LPGA Tour.

Wie, who was 12 under for the tournament, earned the winner's check of $337,500 in the $2.25-million event at the St. Charles Country Club -- the LPGA's only stop in Canada.

Wie had five birdies, including on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes.

"I made a lot of crucial putts today," said Wie, who at 10 years old was the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship.

Jiyai Shin of South Korea shot a 73 and tied for second with Kristy McPherson (66), defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway (69) and South Korea's Jee Lee Young (69).

Wie led wire-to-wire after an opening 65 and was tied with Shin for the lead entering the final round at 10 under.

"My shot was really good, but my putting was so bad," said Shin, who has four victories since joining the LPGA Tour last season.

"I (had) lots of chances for birdies, but I couldn't make it just a couple times."

Ai Miyazato (69) of Japan, the No. 1-ranked player heading into the Open, finished tied for 15th, while No. 2 Cristie Kerr (69) tied for eighth.

After the 20-year-old Wie ended her round on the 18th green, her longtime friend and fellow American player Christina Kim sprayed her with champagne.

"I was trying to run away from her," Wie said with a laugh. "All I was thinking in my mind was I'm wearing white pants, please be nice Tina."

Wie's first career win came in November at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational during her rookie season. Her opening round this week featured the second hole-in-one of her pro career.

Wie said she's heading back to school at Stanford after the LPGA's next event -- the P&G NW Arkansas Championship beginning Sept. 10.

Next year's tournament will be held in Montreal and then Vancouver in 2012. chance."

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Bernhard Langer closed with a final-round 69 and pulled away from Nick Price down the stretch to win the Boeing Classic on Sunday.

Langer got his fifth Champions Tour victory this season, and the second in the greater Seattle area after this year after winning the U.S. Senior Open at Sammamish, Wash., a month ago.

His 18-under-par total matched Loren Roberts' tournament record from last year.

Langer made consecutive birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 to stretch his lead to four strokes with just two to play at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge to take a four-shot lead over Price.

Price (71) wasn't able to find enough birdies on Sunday to keep up with the Charles Schwab Cup leader.

U.S. AMATEUR: Peter Uihlein, the top-ranked amateur player in the world, defeated David Chung 4 and 2 to win the 110th U.S. Amateur championship.

Uihlein was leading by two following the first 18 holes on Sunday morning. He finished off Chung on the 34th hole when Chung's tee shot on the drivable par-4 16th hole went into the deep, fescue grass.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by the Royal & Ancient, Uihlein has been considered one of the top young players in the world for many years, but had yet to capture a major championship until now.

The victory, coming on Uihlein's 21st birthday, was also his first over Chung in a match play setting. Chung was 2-0 against Uihlein until Sunday.