Bill Haas claims PGA title at Congressional

DOUG FERGUSON
Last updated 10:23 01/07/2013

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Bill Haas won the AT&T National and joined some distinguished company.

Haas pulled away from a crowd of contenders with three straight birdies in the middle of his final round at Congressional.

Two key putts down the stretch gave him some room for error that he didn't even need. He closed with a 5-under 66 for a three-shot win over Roberto Castro.

As many as six players had a share of the lead at some point until Haas made the first of his three straight birdies on No. 8.

He led by at least two shots the entire back nine, though he never allowed himself to think about winning until he stood over a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole and realized he had three putts to win.

"I just kept the ball in front of me," Haas said. "Nothing too crazy."

Haas has won at least one PGA Tour event in each of the last four years, joining Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose.

And with a half-dozen players trying to win for the first time on tour, Haas kept a high pedigree of winner at the AT&T National. In the seven-year history of the tournament, Rose was the lowest-ranked player to win. He was at No. 35 in 2010 at Aronimink.

The 31-year-old won for the fifth time in his career, and this was the first one with Tiger Woods on the property - not to play, but to hand out the trophy. Woods sat out this week with an elbow injury and won't play again until the British Open, though he was impressed with what he saw.

"He played beautifully today," Woods said. "He handled his business through the tougher stretch of holes and pulled away."

Castro, part of a four-way tie for the lead at the start of the final round, made Haas work for it.

The other leaders fell away. Andres Romero had a double bogey on the fourth hole and shot 75. James Driscoll didn't make a birdie in his round of 74.

Jordan Spieth, a 19-year-old from Texas who needs a win to become a PGA Tour member and be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, started his day by holing out from a fairway bunker for eagle and chipping in for birdie to tie for the lead.

He dropped a shot at No. 11 - the hardest hole at Congressional - about the time Haas was on his critical run of birdies. Spieth had a 69 and finished sixth, pushing his earnings for the year over $1.1 million.

Castro bogeyed the opening hole, and that was his only mistake. He was one shot out of the lead at the turn, couldn't match birdies with Haas at the par-3 10th, and then stuck with him the rest of the day.

"It helped that Roberto played so well," Haas said.

Haas, who finished on 12-under 272, never allowed himself to think about winning, even after he seized control around the turn. Congressional wouldn't let him.

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Even though he made 15 birdies on the weekend, he remembered the triple bogey on the 11th hole Saturday that temporarily derailed him.

This time, he found the fairway, hit onto the green, took two putts for par and exhaled.

Haas saved par from a bunker on the par-3 13th with a 6-foot putt that swirled 360 degrees around the cup before falling, and then picked up an unlikely birdie on the 14th when his 9-iron was drifting toward a mound covered with shaggy rough to the right of the green.

It hopped off the mound to about 10 feet, and he went from a possible bogey to a birdie when he made the putt.

He made one more birdie with a wedge that checked up a foot from hole on the par-5 16th, and Haas was on his way.

The biggest struggle after that was hoisting the silver trophy of the U.S. Capitol over his head in the stifling heat of the closing ceremony on the 18th green.

Haas was still smarting over losing a three-shot lead in the final round at Riviera, making five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round. He had the 36-hole lead at the Memorial until a 76-71 weekend.

He was solid on Sunday at Congressional, and the win moved him to No. 7 in the FedEx Cup standings with the playoffs about two months away.

That's important to Haas, who won the FedEx Cup in 2011 and failed to qualify for the Tour Championship last year.

D.H. Lee made nine birdies to match a tournament-best 64 and tied for third with Jason Kokrak, who briefly shared the lead on the front nine and had a 69.

Stewart Cink closed with a 67 and finished alone in fifth, his best finish on the PGA Tour since he reached the quarterfinal of the Match Play Championship in 2010.

- AP

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