Golf: Haas wins National for fifth career crown

BETHESDA, Maryland (AFP) - Bill Haas fired a five-under par 66 on Sunday to win the US$6.5 million (S$8.2 million) US PGA National, capturing his fifth career title and leaping into the top 10 on the tour's season money list.

The 31-year-old American took the top prize of US$1.1 million at Congressional Country Club by finishing 72 holes on 12-under par 272, beating countryman Roberto Castro by three strokes.

"Unbelievable special day. It's a great feeling," Haas said. "It was just my week, one of those weeks where the 12-footers went in instead of missed."

South Korean rookie Lee Dong-Hwan made nine birdies in a sizzling round of 64 for his best finish in 18 US PGA starts, a share of third with American Jason Kokrak on 276, one shot ahead of 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink.

"I knew I was far back from the leader so I just kept in my mind and played hole by hole," Lee said. "I just tried to empty my mind and just play my game." US prodigy Jordan Spieth, trying at 19 to become the youngest US PGA Tour winner since 1931, fired a 69 to finish sixth on 278.

World number one Tiger Woods, the tournament host who could not play this week due to a left elbow injury, plans to begin strength work in a few days with plans to return to action in the British Open at Muirfield on July 18-21.

"I start the strengthening process this week and see where that puts me and then ball striking after that," Woods said.

Haas, who has made US$2.76 million this year with seven top-10 finishes, also won the 2010 Bob Hope Classic and Viking Classic, the 2011 Tour Championship and playoff title and last year's Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

Haas joined Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and new US Open champion Justin Rose of England as winners of at least one title a year the past four seasons.

"He played beautifully," Woods said of Haas. "He handled his business through the tougher stretch of holes and pulled away." At one point there were five players level for the lead with three others only one stroke adrift, but Haas broke away with a 10-foot birdie putt at the eighth, a 12-foot birdie at the par-5 ninth and a 10-footer at the par-3 10th.

Haas avoided stumbles by making six-foot par putts at the 13th and 15th.

"As many times as I've choked and hit bad shots and I've been nervous and it hasn't worked out, I was feeling all those things," Haas said. "To hit good quality golf shots down the stretch is such a good feeling. It's amazing.

"It makes it that much sweeter when you can remember the times that you stunk." Castro stayed two back by following a 10-foot Haas birdie putt at the 14th with an eight-foot birdie putt of his own.

But at the par-5 16th, Haas dropped his third shot inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie, stretching his lead to three strokes. He parred the last two holes to secure the triumph.

Lee, who won last year's PGA Qualifying Tournament, made five birdies in a row starting at the fourth and sank birdie putts of 38 feet at the 12th, 18 feet at the 15th and 24 feet at 18.

His superb effort came a day after firing a 75 and making an obscene gesture at the 12th hole that was caught by television cameras.

"It was just out of frustration," Lee said. "I aimed (the gesture) at the ball, not anyone in the crowd.

"I regret what I did regardless of the reason. It's something I shouldn't have done. Everybody makes mistakes. I made this mistake and I'm just going to learn from this."