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Take Notah, Begay Can Play

If Tiger Woods isn't careful, they might start referring to him as Notah Begay's college teammate.

Picking up right where Woods left off in the U.S. Open, Begay won the Greater Hartford Open on Sunday for his second consecutive victory on the PGA Tour.

"We've got to keep the Stanford streak going. He won the U.S. Open, I've won these two, and he's got to win it next week," said Begay, referring to the Western Open.

Woods begins defense of his Western Open title Thursday.

Begay holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Mark Calcavecchia in the Greater Hartford Open, making the American Indian the first player to win consecutive tournaments since Woods won the final three events last year.

  • CROMWELL, Connecticut
    Notah Begay made it two wins in a row on the PGA Tour when he won the Greater Hartford Open by a single stroke Sunday. (CBS SportsLine)
  • Notah Begay
  • Notah Begay
  • Notah Begay
  • "It's beyond words for me. I'm real happy with my game. And after all the personal problems I've had, it's a pleasure to be playing golf again," said Begay, who won the St. Jude Classic last week in Memphis, Tenn.

    Arrested in January for drunken driving in his hometown and jailed for a week, Begay missed five cuts in 10 tournaments after that. Overcoming his personal problems and the death of a close friend this week added to his resolve to win Sunday.

    He closed with a 6-under-par 64 to break the tournament record with a 20-under 260 total on the TPC at River Highlands. Brent Geiberger set the previous record of 262 last year.

    Begay plans to take some time off before playing the British Open on July 20-23. "I'm all golfed out," he said.

    Woods called Begay before the GHO to congratulate him on the St. Jude win and to wish him luck. Begay is the only American Indian on tour and his gallery is growing with each success. Making his way through the throngs of autograph-seekers is something Begay knows Woods can relate to. They've talked about the price of fame.

    "I want to be remembered for the positive difference that I've made in the lives young people regardless of race," Begay said. "Tiger's bee a great asset as my career progresses because he's probably one of the one or two most recognizable people in the world. I'm just hoping to be the most recognizable guy in Albuquerque."

    After holing the winning putt, Begay ran off the green, his arms in the air when the putt dropped, mouthing the words "this one's for you Ronnie," referring to his best friend's father, Ron Marks, who died Monday.

    Calcavecchia, who lost his opening three-stroke lead early then tied Begay with a late eagle, just closed his eyes.

    "I didn't think he was going to make it," said Calcavecchia, who moments earlier missed his birdie attempt by inches. "I thought he was aiming too far to the right, but he had the ultimate speed on it. I just kind of closed my eyes - second again."

    Combined with his victory last week, Begay has picked up more than $1 million in earnings to nudge him near the top 10. The GHO, sponsored by Canon, paid Begay $504,000 for the win. It was his fourth victory in two years on tour.

    Begay made short work of Calcavecchia's three-stroke lead. He birdied Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 7, rolling in putts of between 10 and 25 feet. He putts either left-handed or right-handed depending upon the break. The tournament winner came from the right side.

    "I was lucky to be the one closest to the hole," Begay said. "He couldn't really go for it, and it just gave me a green light to get a good read and give it a chance."

    Begay caught Calcavecchia on the par-4 No. 7 when he rolled in a 15-footer for birdie after Calcavecchia tapped in for par.

    Begay made his biggest move on the shortest hole. Calcavecchia's drive on the par-3 No. 11 landed in the greenside trap on the 158-yard hole. He eventually bogeyed. Begay took the lead when he made a 2-foot par putt. He birdied the next hole for a two-stroke lead.

    Both players drove the green on the 296-yard 15th hole. Calcavecchia's ball stopped 6 feet from the pin and he sank his eagle putt. Begay's drive rolled across the green and into the backside fringe. A chip and two putts later, they were tied at 19 all with three holes to play.

    "I was just trying to hit a good shot and get it on the green and make birdie. Just so happens I hit an incredible 3-wood in there," Calcavecchia said. "And he blew it by and I was surprised when he missed the finish."

    Calcavecchia, winless since 1998, picked up a $302,000 second-place check. Kirk Triplett shot a 67 to finish four strokes back.

    Begay has credited part of his turnaround with using his brother Clint as his caddie, starting in May. Clint, two years younger and bigger at 260 pounds, has helped Begay relax by providing comic relief while on the bag. Notah Begay has joked that his brother won't get the caddies' usual 10 percent, but the family rate.

    "I haven't even seemy paycheck from last week he keeps telling me the check's in the mail," Clint said. "But as long as he feeds me, I'm all right."

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