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Lehman birdies way to $1m win

Tom Lehman no longer wonders if he belongs in the company of the world's best players. A million dollars can buy a lot of confidence.

Lehman birdied five of the last six holes today to win the $3.5 million Williams World Challenge by three strokes over David Duval, the No. 2-ranked player in the world.

Lehman, 40, winless on the PGA Tour since the 1996 Tour Championship, earned $1 million. He closed with a 3-under 67 for a 13-under 267 total on the Grayhawk course, which was belted by rain and hail that halted play for about 65 minutes.

Duval shot a 70 for a 270 total and earned $500,000 in the 12-man tournament.

Lehman, who finished second four times last year, had said he wants to eliminate some doubts he's had about his game in the 2000 tour season that starts next week.

"This is a step in the right direction," he said.

"I was very happy with the way I played the last six holes. I knew what I had to do. David Duval was not backing off. I hit some really good shots and made some really good putts."

Lehman was the PGA Player of the Year in 1996, when he won the British Open and Tour Championship. But this was the first time he's play for this much money and got into the tournament on an invitation from Tiger Woods.

"I felt a lot of pressure. Good pressure though," Lehman said. "It wasn't the kind that incapacitates you. It was the kind of pressure that gets you very focused."

The final round became a match play showdown between Duval and Lehman after none of the other 10 players could make a move on the front side.

Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, shot a 41 on the front nine and finished with a 76. It was his worst round since a 76 in the 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and only the third time he's failed to match or break par in his last 36 rounds. He finished 10th with a 282 total.

"I had a top-10 finish," Woods joked. "That was about the only good thing for me this week."

Duval, who won four times in the first three months of the 1999 season and appears poised for another fast start on the regular tour, birdied the par-4 10th to take a one-stroke lead.

But Duval, brilliant with every club this week except the putter, missed several makable birdie putts over the final nine holes.

"It doesn't matter how good you hit it if you don't make putts," Duval said.

Lehman, who bogeyed two of the first four holes, got his round rolling by saving par with a 10-foot putt on the par-4 12th. His tee shot caught a fairway bunker and his second shot ended up in a bunker in front of the green. After Duval's 13-foot birdie putt lipped out, Lehman ran in a 10-footer.

"That save was crucial," Lehman said. "David made a phenomenal putt that made a 360 (degree turn) almost."

Lehman grabbed a share of the lead at the par-3 13th with his first birdie of the day.

Lehman and Duval matched birdies on 14 and 15, then Lehman hit a 4-iron shot within 18 inches of the hole on the 211-yard, par-3 16th. Duval's 4-iron shot landed 8 feet away, but he again missed.

Lehman tapped in, then finished off his win with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 final hole. Duval closed with a bogey after putting his second shot behind a greenside bunker.

Vijay Singh finished eight shots back in third, closing with a 69 for a 275 total. Davis Love III (67) was fourth at 277.

Spain's Sergio Garcia, who put his second shot into the water on the final hole and double-bogeyed, shot a 70 to finish fourth at 278

Lehman and Duval were tied for the lead at 8-under and on the No. 9 green when play was halted. When play resumed, Lehman saved par with a 6-foot putt.

Duval had built a three-stroke lead with a birdie at the par-3 fifth hole, but gave the three shots back with a bogey at No. 6 and a double-bogey at No. 7. In both cases, the desert got Duval.

His second shot at six bounced off the back fringe of the green and under a small tree 30 yards behind the green. He saved bogey with an 8-foot putt, but his tee shot on No. 7 hit a tree and came to rest at the base of a small bush. He took an unplayable lie, missed the green with his third shot and made double bogey.

But Duval said those two holes weren't the difference.

"If Tom had run way with it after that, maybe. It was just a couple of bad breaks," Duval said. "What happened on seven was absurd. It climbed up a tree, rolled back down and next to a tree."

The Williams World Challenge, in its inaugural year, is not part of the PGA Tour schedule. Woods donated $120,000 of his $130,000 earnings in the event to the Payne Stewart Memorial and the remaining $10,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation. The foundation promotes junior golf programs, particularly among disadvantaged youth.

Tom Lehman $1,000,000 68-65-67-67--26713-under

David Duval$500,000 65-69-66-70--27010-under

Vijay Singh$350,000 70-69-67-69--275 5-under

Davis Love III $275,000 70-67-73-67--277 3-under

Sergio Garcia$250,000 71-69-68-70--278 2-under

Justin Leonard $225,000 69-72-69-69--279 1-under

Paul Lawrie$200,000 70-70-66-74--280 even

John Huston$162,500 74-67-72-68--281 1-over
Hal Sutton $162,500 70-72-69-70--281

Tiger Woods$130,000 65-70-71-76--282 2-over

Phil Mickelson $125,000 72-74-72-70--288 8-over

Mark O'Meara $120,000 73-71-73-75--29212-over