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Faxon Takes Sony Wire-To-Wire

Brad Faxon watched his chip shot bounce on the second green and continue its 90-foot journey to the hole. When it disappeared into the cup, he turned his visor sideways and reveled in his good fortune.

The way Faxon was putting, luck was the last thing he needed. The improbable birdie only summed up his week in the Sony Open.

"Everything went as planned, went as expected, and sometimes even better," Faxon said after keeping his distance from Tom Lehman and Ernie Els and completing a wire-to-wire victory Sunday.

Faxon made two 30-foot birdie putts to keep momentum on his side, and finished in style with his fourth eagle in as many days. That gave him a 5-under 65, matching the lowest 72-hole score at Waialae Country Club.

"He had a three-shot lead and shot 65," Lehman said. "That gets the job done. He answered everything I had to give."

Faxon finished at 20-under 260, which tied the record score at Waialae Country Club. John Huston had a 260 in 1998 when the course played as a par 72.

Lehman got within one stroke after six holes, was even par on the back nine and finished four strokes back after a 66. Els had a 69 and was three more strokes back, his third straight week in contention without a victory to show for it.

It was the eighth career victory for Faxon, and the $720,000 check was the largest in his 17-year career. And this victory came with some perks.

Faxon, who faced getting shut out of the Masters for the second straight year, should get enough points to move into the top 50 in the world ranking. All he has to do now is stay there for the next six weeks.

"I have some big goals," he said. "I've got to get back into the top 50 to get into the Masters. I want to play in all the majors and make the Ryder Cup team. To do that, I have to play well all year long and win a few times."

His second victory since July he won the B.C. Open after failing to qualify for the British Open also gets him into the U.S. Open. He also moved up to No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings.

Lehman has seen enough of Faxon's short game, having also lost to him in the third round of the Match Play Championship three weeks ago.

"I hope I don't see any more of it until the Belfry," Lehman said.

Faxon also got some redemption at Waialae, having lost in a four-hole playoff to Jim Furyk in 1996.

A playoff never entered anyone's mind Sunday, not the way Faxon broke the spirit of Els and Lehman with his 90-foot chip for birdie, and a 30-foot birdie utt on No. 8 after Lehman had hit his approach to within a foot.

Billy Andrarde had a 65 and finished fourth, then came out to watch his best friend and fellow islander - that's Rhode Island - clean up an impressive victory.

Faxon has led the PGA Tour in putting three of the past five years, and estimates that two dozen players have asked for tips. He put on a clinic at Waialae, which has some of the smoothest putting surfaces around.

He became the second straight player to win the Sony Open from start to finish. Paul Azinger did it last year, and won by seven strokes.

"I'm thrilled to death," Faxon said. "I hope this is the start of a great year."

Lehman and Els should have known what was in store early in the round.

Faxon, who led both by three strokes to start the day, easily could have dropped shots on the first two holes when he hit his tee shots into the right rough surrounded by trees. Both times, he recovered beautifully.

He hooked one approach around the trees and onto the fringe, then made a 6-footer to save par. On No. 2, he hit his approach through a small gap in the trees left of the green, and chipped in from about 90 feet for birdie.

"You're only going to save par two out of 10 times," Faxon said. "Making birdie is like one in 100."

Els dropped out of the race quickly. He made bogey after taking an unplayable lie from a hibiscus bush on No. 6, then three-putted from 10 feet to take double bogey two holes later. The bogey putt was only a foot.

Lehamn got as close as anyone to Faxon one stroke with an approach out of the rough, over the trees and into 3 feet for birdie on No. 6, while Faxon had a rare three-putt from about 35 feet above the ridge.

But Faxon, as he did on Saturday when his lead shrunk, had an answer.

After a 7-foot birdie putt on the next hole, he holed a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8 after Lehman had hit his approach into 2 feet for a tap-in birdie. Faxon made it three in a row with a soft flop shot over the bunker within 2 feet for a birdie on the par-5 ninth.

Lehman's hopes ended with a drive that landed in the rough on the 13th, so close to the edge of the bunker that Lehman could barely balance himself over the ball. He had to pitch out sideways, and missed a 10-foot par putt.

Divots: Among those following Els over the weekend was Tom Fargo, commander of the Pacific Fleet for the U.S. Navy. Fargo played a pro-am with Els in the Dubai Desert Classic several years ago while stationed in the Persian Gulf.

  • A man in the gallery saw David Feherty of CBS Sports and asked him to say something in Irish. "Dublin," Feherty replied.
  • Faxon made as many eagles this week four as he did all of last year.
  • Jim Furyk failed to break 70 for the first time this year, closing with a 71.

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