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Rich Beem tries for third title in a row

The whirlwind that has become Rich Beem's life winds its way to the northwest this week for the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational, a reduced-field event that brings together many of the world's finest.

Seventy-eight of the world's top players are in the field at Sahalee Country Club, which will mark the first time the NEC Invitational will not be played at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

And after wins in consecutive starts, Beem, who is coming off wins at The International and last week's PGA Championship, has to be included in that class. The one-time cell phone and car stereo salesman from Bellevue, Wash., is riding the top of the golfing world at the moment.

"A blur? Yeah," said Beem of how life has changed in the past month. "How could it not be a dream. At the beginning of year, one of my goals was basically just get your card back and then let's go from there. I had three sets of goals, and I've actually now have to make some more goals because I've absolutely bypassed everything before then.

"My life has certainly taken a turn for the best. This is unbelievable to me. I'm riding it right now. I can't wait to get home, though, and just kind of hopefully slow everything down just a little bit. It's wonderful, but at the same time, it's overwhelming. I'm not too sure. I need a little time to soak it all in."

Beem hopes to continue the torrid play that won him the PGA, especially on the greens. Beem entered last week averaging 1.784 putts per green in regulation (126th on Tour) and 29.30 putts per round (50th on Tour). Last week, Beem averaged 1.636 (third in the field) and 26.75 (first).

Because Beem has ties to the area, he will have quite a following of friends, family and fans on his side this week. Beem, like he has the past few weeks, will attempt to just soak in the experience.

"I'm not going to put any extra pressure on myself," he said. "I'm just excited to be up here and tee it up. It's a great venue to play. I mean, there's a lot of risk and rewards shots, it seems like, out there. You've got to drive the ball straight here. But I've got no extra pressure because of what the last two weeks -- how I performed there."

In order to win, Beem would have to overcome a bit of history and his closest pursuer at the PGA Championship. Two-time defending champion Tiger Woods is seeking his fourth consecutive win at the NEC Invitational.

Should Woods continue that streak, he will join Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen as the only players to win the same event four straight times.

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