HILTON HEAD -- The only thing that didn't change was the unassuming country boy from the Florida Panhandle who slipped into the tartan jacket.
Boo Weekley successfully defended his Verizon Heritage title Sunday, shooting an even-par 71 at Harbour Town Golf Links for a 15-under-par total and a three-stroke victory over Anthony Kim (71) and Aaron Baddeley (71.)
"This win," Weekley said, "it does mean just as much to me as the first one did."
But it came in starkly different fashion.
A year ago, Weekley entered the final round two shots and two places behind 54-hole leader Jerry Kelly. He chipped in to save par on the 71st and 72nd holes, then survived a scare from Ernie Els, who nearly holed out from the 18th fairway to force a playoff. Weekley's family was back home in Milton, Fla., and many Heritage fans were back to the 9-to-5 grind -- windy weather forced a Monday finish, and Weekley celebrated his first PGA Tour victory in front of a sparse crowd.
This year, Kelly and Els missed the cut, Weekley was the 54-hole leader for the first time in his PGA Tour career and no one got within three shots of him during the final round. With several friends and his mother, Patsy, following every shot, Weekley enjoyed the crowd's adulation from start to finish -- chants of "Booooo!" accompanied every exploit of a golfer who would as soon be in a bass boat or a deer stand, and fans in camouflage hats and shirts dotted the gallery.
Weekley, who earned $990,000 and a second straight invitation to the Masters, becomes just the third golfer to successfully defend at the Heritage, joining five-time champion Davis Love III in 1992 and Payne Stewart in 1990. He also surpasses Arnold Palmer, who tied for third in 1970 after winning the inaugural Heritage, for the best start of a Harbour Town career.
"I thought that you really won when you stand there and pull the ball out of the hole and turn around to the crowd and say, 'You know, hey, I am the champ,' " Weekley said. "I chipped it in back to back last year, and I didn't get to stand there and turn to the crowd and do the fist pump."
With a chance to do it again, he bowed to the fans, then threw his hands in the air.
"I wanted to do the moon walk, the belly-roll," Weekley said.
And even though his game wasn't at its best Sunday -- Weekley ended a streak of seven consecutive tournament rounds in the 60s -- it was more than good enough on a day in which only two of the 13 golfers who started the day within nine shots broke 70.
"I kind of proved to myself that, hey, you ain't always got to have your 'A' game to win," Weekley said.
Twenty-two-year-old Kim, playing with Weekley in the final group, trailed by three to start the day and never got closer. His chance to win his first PGA Tour title took a serious blow at the 322-yard, par-4 ninth, where he hit his approach into a bunker, blasted out 40 feet past the cup and suffered double bogey.
"I've been positive all week," said Kim, who matched his career-best finish, which he posted in his PGA Tour debut at the 2006 Valero Texas Open. "I'm not going to let this finish deter me from thinking that way."
Jim Furyk, at No. 9 the highest-ranked golfer in the field after Friday's cut, made an early run by cutting a six-stroke deficit in half. He made three birdies in the first five holes, but a bogey at No. 11 blunted his charge. He shot 69.
"I turned at 3 under, but it could have really been special at the finish," said Furyk, who has four top-10 finishes in his past five starts at Harbour Town. "... Coming in, the last 12 holes, I hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in. But I hit a lot of good putts, which I wasn't doing in weeks past."
Baddeley continued his good play at Harbour Town -- after missing the cut in his first appearance in 2001, the 2006 champion has three top 10s in as many Heritage starts. But his birdies on the 15th and 16th holes came too late to apply much pressure to Weekley.
"I really felt like I was trying to birdie every hole coming in," Baddeley said. "I didn't get off to a quick enough start today."
Weekley birdied the two par-5s on the front nine but wasn't exactly hot out of the gate, himself. He scrambled to save par on the first hole and made bogey from a greenside bunker on the third. He also took a bogey on the par-4 eighth -- the second-toughest hole of the week -- after his drive left him behind a pine and without a direct route to a rear pin. He tried to stop a low punch-shot approach, but the ball skipped over the green, and onto a grassy downslope of a bunker. His chip went screaming 40 feet past the hole.
But Weekley had his share of good fortune, too.
At the par-4 10th, he made a 55-foot pitch over a bunker for birdie. And Weekley was at it again at the par-4 14th hole, where he faced a 28-foot putt from just off the fringe. He hit it hard enough to make it go 48 feet and into a lagoon on the opposite side -- but it instead hit the hole, popped up in the air and fell into the cup for the fourth of his five birdies on Sunday.
"That one scared me a little," Weekley admitted.
Another birdie at the par-5 15th got him to 17 under -- and to thinking about Loren Roberts' 1996 tournament scoring record of 19 under and Nick Price's record run of nine consecutive rounds in the 60s.
A bogey at No. 16 spoiled those thoughts, though, and Weekley also bogeyed the 18th, missing a short putt to save par from the front bunker.
Nonetheless, for a golfer who sometimes struggles on the greens -- Weekley ranked 144th in putting on the PGA Tour entering this week's play -- it was another solid week at Harbour Town, where he has never three-putted. He was particularly good from short distance, making 47 of 53 putts between 4 and 8 feet.
"I felt like I had a chance," Kim said, "but Boo hit the right shots at the right time."
Indeed, Weekley seems to have a knack for that at Harbour Town -- he ranked eighth in the field in greens in regulation and ninth in approach shot proximity to the hole. He also saved par 17 of the 25 times he missed a green.
Weekley attributes his comfort at Harbour Town to learning the game at the similarly narrow Tanglewood Country Club back home in Milton.
And to the fans here who have embraced him.
"That actually makes this whole tournament," Weekley said.
He said his trophy -- Weekley is the first winner to receive a statuette of the gentleman golfer depicted in the Heritage logo -- probably will sit in his barn until his new house is built. And he's thrilled to pick up another snappy tartan jacket:
"I can wear one on Saturday, one on Sunday."
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