Bell Canadian Open
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Sutton cruises to 3-stroke victory

Hal Sutton stood in the 11th fairway with a six-shot lead when a booming, ghost-like voice out of nowhere caused him to look toward a house some 500 yards away, partially hidden by the trees on a hill.

"Goooooo Haaaalll," came the echo.

It was a fitting tribute in today's final round of the Bell Canadian Open. That was about as close as anyone came to Sutton all day.

In his last tune-up before his first Ryder Cup in 12 years, Sutton put on a dominant display of driving and clutch putting to run away from the field for a three-stroke victory over Dennis Paulson.

"I felt in control of my game," Sutton said after closing with a 3-under 69, one of only seven rounds in the 60s today under the crusty, rock-hard conditions at Glen Abbey Golf Club.

Sutton finished at 275 for the widest margin of victory in the Canadian Open since Curtis Strange won by three strokes in 1987. The third oldest golf championship in the world is notorious for dramatic finishes, but Sutton never let it get that far.

A string of three birdies on the front nine took him from one stroke behind Lee Janzen to a four-stroke lead, and Sutton poured it on from there.

"I hit a couple of real good iron shots, and he hit a couple of bad shots, and that's where the whole thing turned around," Sutton said.

Paulson was the only one Sutton could see in the rear view mirror. He had a 6-foot eagle putt on 13 that would have brought him within two strokes of Sutton, but he had to settle for a birdie.

Sutton, in the group behind, also birdied the hole with a 10-foot putt, then nearly made an ace on No. 15 for his sixth birdie of the day which effectively locked up the tournament.

"Hal is very impressive," said Paulson, who also had a 69 for his second runner-up finish this year. "He just plays solid golf."

That can only help the Americans' bid to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993. Sutton became only the fifth U.S. team member to win a tournament this year, joining Tiger Woods, David Duval, Payne Stewart, and Match Play Championship winner Jeff Maggert.

Not that he was concerned about that. Sutton is having his most consistently good year since he was dubbed the next Jack Nicklaus in 1983 after winning the PGA Championship.

"I would have been confident even if I hadn't played well this week," Sutton said. "You guys keep writing about the Americans not winning tournaments this year, so I had to win one for us."

Janzen had a one-stroke lead over Sutton when the final round began in opposite winds than the first three days, but he was one of several potential contenders who crumbled at the Abbey.

Janzen, who had made 21 birdies through 54 holes, was wild off the tee, errant with his irons and spent most of the afternoon with hands on his hips, staring aimlessly into the sky as he tried to figure out what went wrong.

He finished with a 76 and was at 281 along with David Sutherland, Dudley Hart and Justin Leonard, another Ryder Cup player who will be going to The Country Club in good form.

Paul Azinger's bid to win for the first time since he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1993 also never materialized. Starting the day just two strokes behind, he took a sloppy bogey on the par-5 fifth, three-putted from 60 feet on the next hole and wound up with a 77.

Steve Stricker, who honed his game on the Canadian Tour, also limped around in 77.

Not that it would have mattered.

After a bogey on No. 3, Sutton was determined to finally cash in on what has been one of the most consistent years of a riches-to-rags-to-riches career that spans 18 seasons.

The victory was worth $450,000 and pushed him to more than $1.9 million for the year. It also was his 12th top-10 finish of the year -- only Woods (13) has more.

"Winning always makes it a lot better," he said.

Sutton, who went into a seven-year slump by resting on his laurels, now has won 11 times on the PGA Tour, all different tournaments. Three of those victories have come since turning 40 in April a year ago.

"It's gratifying to come back in my career at this stage," Sutton said. "But it was not without a lot of help, and a lot of hard work."

The 36-year-old Paulson, in only his third full year on tour, moved up to No. 22 on the money list with $1,147,551, which could be enough to get him into the Tour Championship and World Golf Championship event in Spain, both with $5 million purses.

His best tournaments have come on Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, and the Abbey was no exception. Paulson also tied for fourth in New Orleans, was sixth in the Memorial and tied for seventh in the Reno-Tahoe Open, another Nicklaus design.

"I wish Jack Nicklaus designed every course out here. I would be a very rich man," Paulson said.

DIVOTS: Sutton became the 28th Canadian Open champion to have also won a major championship. In all, 44 of the 90 winners in the world's third oldest golf championship have won majors. ... The Abbey resuscitated two players who have struggled in recent years. Nick Faldo closed with a 71 for 5-under 283 and finished eighth, his first top 10 since 1997. Chip Beck also had a 71 and tied for 14th at 2-under 286, his first top 25 since 1996. ... The top Canadian was Richard Zokol at 1-over 289. The last Canadian to win his national open was Pat Fletcher in 1954

 


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