AKRON, Ohio Vijay Singh raised both hands over his head when he saw his 3 1/2-foot par putt swirl into the cup for a one-shot victory, a familiar sight for someone who has won 32 times on the PGA Tour.
This was more relief than celebration at the Bridgestone Invitational.
On the verge of throwing away a World Golf Championship, as Phil Mickelson had done ahead of him, Singh overcame some shaky putting Sunday on the back nine of Firestone by making the only one that mattered.
Three times in the last year, he had at least a share of the 54-hole and failed to finish it off. Needing two putts from 30 feet to end a 0-for-34 drought on the PGA Tour, the last thing he wanted was the kind of putt that has given him fits.
But he trusted the countless hours of practice he spent last week on such a putt, and it paid off.
"What a relief," Singh said. "I didn't think I could finish it there at the end."
With par putts on the final two holes, Singh closed with a 2-under 68 to hold off hard-charging Lee Westwood and Stuart Appleby and the fast-fading Mickelson, who lost a one-shot lead with three bogeys on his final four holes.
Singh captured his first World Golf Championship event and won for the 32nd time on the PGA Tour, putting him in the record books for most victories by an international player. He had been tied with Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper of England since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March 2007, a victory that seemed like a lifetime ago.
"Although I hadn't won, I was confident I was going to win," Singh said. "I told everybody that knows me that it's just a matter of time, it's going to come. This was a six-week run, and I was geared up to win. I'm glad that it happened the first week out."
As shaky as Singh looked down the stretch, Mickelson fared even worse.
With his best chance to win a WGC title especially with six-time Firestone champion Tiger Woods on the disabled list Mickelson played bogey-free for 14 holes and had a one-shot lead until taking bogey from the bunker on three of the last four holes and watching yet another birdie putt from 10 feet hang on the edge. He closed with a 70 and tied for fourth with Retief Goosen (67).
"It wasn't a good finish for me, but I played really well today," Mickelson said. "I'm turning 63s and 64s into 70s, and that's kind of what happened today. I couldn't get any putts to go in, then in the end, I made some bogeys."
So did Singh.
According to tour statistics, Singh was 9-of-19 on putts from 4 to 8 feet during the tournament. But he kept his lead with a 4 1/2-foot par putt on the 17th hole, setting up one more nerve-jangling putt that he didn't want on the 18th.
"I said, 'Just cozy it down there. If it goes in fine. Don't leave yourself a 4-footer.' And I left myself a 4-footer," Singh said. "I've been practicing 4- and 5-footers all week last week, and at the end of the day it pays off."
Why did he practice from that distance during his week off in Florida?
"Because I miss a lot of those," Singh said.
Singh finished at 10-under 270 and earned $1.35 million for a victory expected to move him to No. 4 in the world.
Westwood, who could have moved up to No. 4 with his first U.S. title in 10 years, rallied from a five-shot deficit with 11 holes to play to get within one of the lead. But he missed a 7-foot birdie on the 17th, and his 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 18th to tie for the lead was left all the way. He closed with a 69.
"I gave myself a real good look at it," Westwood said.
An equally impressive rally belonged to Appleby, the only player to compete in all 29 of these WGC events since they began in 1999. He was seemingly out of the picture until a 30-foot birdie on the 16th, a 3-foot birdie on the 17th and an 18-foot birdie attempt on the final hole that just stayed right of the cup. He shot 68.
"I had a putt for what I thought would get me into a playoff," Appleby said. "I hit the best putt I could have hit without it going in."
Darren Clarke made a strong showing in his first U.S. tournament since the PGA Championship last year. Clarke closed with a 67 to tie for sixth with Peter Lonard (66).
Singh broke out of a three-way tie with Westwood and Mickelson by making four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the front nine, starting with a two-putt birdie from about 18 feet on the second hole, concluding with an approach to tap-in range on the sixth.
But the first sign of a struggle came on No. 8 when he missed an 8-foot par putt.
Mickelson hit from the left rough to inches of the hole on the 11th for a birdie. That gave him the lead when Singh, playing in the group behind him, spun a wedge back 40 feet and three-putted from the fringe.
"I started missing 5- and 6-footers," Singh said. "I tried to hit it as close as possible so I didn't leave myself any putts."
It was a grind the rest of the day. Singh badly missed an 8-footer for par on the 13th, and with a chance to seize control on the 16th, his 4-foot birdie putt missed on the low side.
But he came through on the final two holes for a victory long overdue. Next up is the PGA Championship, followed by the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize.
"It puts me in a really good frame of mind going into next week and the rest of the season," he said.
U.S. SENIOR OPEN: At Colorado Springs, Colo., the 29th U.S. Senior Open will be remembered for the black bears that menaced The Broadmoor's East Course and the one cat who conquered it.
Eduardo "El Gato" Romero on Sunday became the second Argentine golfer to hoist the silver cup, 28 years after Roberto De Vicenzo won the trophy at Winged Foot.
"This is very important, very important because we're working hard for golf in Argentina," Romero said after the biggest win of his career. "I'm back to Argentina with this cup! It's mine!"
The 54-year-old Romero shot a 3-over 73 in the final round and, despite four straight bogeys on the back nine, he was never seriously challenged by Fred Funk (75), who finished four strokes back.
Romero finished at 6-under 274 and won $470,000, is anticipating a hero's welcome when he returns today to Villa Allende in central province of Cordoba, the same city where his compatriots held a parade for 2007 U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, whom Romero once sponsored on the European Tour.
Romero got a post-round congratulatory phone call from De Vicenzo, the godfather of golf in Argentina, who told him the country was already celebrating his triumph.
Romero pumped his right fist and spun around in excitement after sinking a 45-footer for birdie on No. 10, but his emotions quickly turned as he bogeyed the next four holes.
At that point, Romero said he began to think back to another infamous implosion.
"I remember Greg Norman when he lost the (1996) Masters and he started to make bogeys and never stopped," Romero said. "I said to my caddie, 'I have to make a putt, just one putt."'
He got what he needed on No. 15.
But it was two holes earlier that he began to exhale.
Despite bogeying the par-4 13th, Romero walked off the green having picked up two strokes on Funk, whose triple-bogey doubled his deficit to four shots and put him in, well, a funk.
Funk predicted Saturday that he'd have to make his move on the front nine and then just hold on. He did neither, failing to cut into the deficit and then watching his quest to become the fifth straight come-from-behind winner die on 13, where his 3-wood headed straight for the thigh-high grass on the left.
Instead of knocking it onto the fairway with a wedge or 9-iron, Funk tried to get more distance out of the shot with a 7-iron.
"I thought I would maybe have a better shot at maybe getting up and down and getting, at worst, a 5 out of it," Funk said. "I thought wrong."
The ball traveled less than 20 yards and stayed in the rough.
"And from there was a debacle the rest of the way," said Funk, who three-putted.
Mark McNulty (68) finished in third, five shots back. Greg Norman shot a 70 and finished in fourth, his third straight top-5 finish.
Norman, the 53-year-old Australian who held the 54-hole lead at the British Open two weeks ago, is skipping the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills next week. His honeymoon with tennis great Chris Evert over, he said he needs to return to work as CEO of Great White Shark Enterprises.
"You won't see me until December," Norman said, referring to the Merrill Lynch Shootout at the course he designed at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla.
Norman never found a rhythm in the Rockies and grumbled about the inconsistent greens and sometimes perilous pin placements.
"The golf course was just awkward," he said. "It was just inconsistent."
Romero, one of the big hitters on the Champions Tour who regularly hits driver-wedge into the par-4s, is the first international winner at the U.S. Senior Open since Australia's Graham Marsh in 1997 and the first to hold both the 54-hole lead and the trophy since Bruce Lietzke in 2003.
Although several deer and fawn showed up Sunday on the cragged course carved out of the Rocky Mountain foothills, there weren't any more sightings of black bears like the one that interrupted the tournament Friday.
Volunteers did arrive at dawn to discover a bear had visited the concession stand at the seventh hole overnight and helped itself to a smorgasbord of candy bars, bananas, hot dogs and bread.
And a doe and two fawns crossed the 14th fairway Sunday, where Norman hit a long drive over them and Juan Quiros had to wait as the deer trotted off into the trees.
Other than that, the only interruption of the final round was a 23-minute weather delay when the leaders were on the fairway on the sixth hole.
WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN: At Sunningdale, England, what was billed as Annika Sorenstam's farewell to the majors turned into yet another showcase for the young stars from Asia.
Hours after Sorenstam walked up the 18th at the Women's British Open to a standing ovation and closed her final major with a birdie, Ji-Yai Shin won the last major of the year by three strokes after a final round 6-under 66 on Sunday.
Shin, a 20-year-old South Korean whose 21 previous victories were all in her homeland or Japan, maintained Asia's recent domination of the majors on the LPGA Tour. In capturing her first major with an 18-under score of 270, she led an Asian sweep of the top five places.
Taiwan's Yani Tseng, winner of the LPGA Championship earlier this year, was second with a 66 and a 15-under total of 273, while Korea's Eun Hee Ji (67) and Japanese third-round leader Yuri Fudoh (71) tied for third on 14-under. Japan's Ai Miyazato (70) was fifth at 13-under 275, and 13 of the top 20 were from Asia.
The other Asian to win a major this year was Korea's Inbee Park, who took the Women's U.S. Open.
Playing well outside her comfort zone on the Korean LPGA Tour, Shin said she had a sleepless night ahead of her final round.
"This morning I was very nervous but I focused on my game and now I won, so I am happy," said Shin, who has received an invitation to join the LPGA Tour. "My dream's come true now.
"I was planning to play in Japan but maybe now I change my plans and play in America."
NATIONWIDE TOUR: At Omaha, Neb., Ryan Hietala parred the first extra hole of a sudden death playoff to defeat David Branshaw on Sunday at the Nationwide Tour's Cox Classic.
Hietala, who earned $126,000 for the victory, and Branshaw had tied at 19-under 265 after four rounds.
Skip Kendall shot a 64, the low round of the day and his lowest of the year, to finish in a tie for third with Garth Mulroy and Alex Prugh at 16 under.
This is the fourth time the Cox Classic was decided in a playoff.
Both players found the fairway on the extra hole. Branshaw hit a pitch from the rough to within 5 feet, but missed his par putt.
"David played fantastic and to see his five-footer miss you never root against anybody but I can't believe it," said Hietala, of Boise, Idaho.
Hietala's last victory was at the 2005 Chitimacha Louisiana Open. It was also his last top-10 finish.
LEGENDS RENO-TAHOE OPEN: At Reno, Nev., Parker McLachlin shot a 2-over 74 Sunday and still hung on to claim his first PGA Tour victory by seven strokes at the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open.
McLachlin recovered from trouble time after time to card 14 pars, three bogeys and a birdie on the 18th to finish the tourney at 18-under 270.
The 29-year-old UCLA product tied the course record with a 10-under 62 on Friday and set a 54-hole record at 20-under but had to scramble his way to the $540,000 winner's check on Sunday after hitting only four greens in regulation for the day. Brian Davis and John Rollins tied for second at 11-under 277.