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GOLF ROUNDUP

Bateman drives away with Buick

Brian Bateman's knees buckled. He tossed his putter in the air and pumped his fists.

His long wait for a PGA Tour victory ended with a birdie on the last hole yesterday at the Buick Open, breaking a four-way tie and making him the improbable winner.

"It seemed like it took forever to get to the hole," Bateman said of the slow-rolling putt that broke slightly from right to left. "Then, I just went blank and threw my hands up and said, 'Man, I finally did it.' "

Bateman entered his 151st PGA Tour event 204th on the money list in his sixth year with the world's best golfers.

His best previous finish was third before he closed with a 3-under-par 69 to finish 15-under 273 and triumph by a shot with the highest winning score at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Mich., since 1997.

"Every player from Tiger Woods to Brian Bateman has to win their first one," he said.

Bateman's chances of winning were boosted when Woods (with his family) and Vijay Singh (sore elbow) didn't make their usual appearances.

The 34-year-old native and resident of Monroe, La., earned an $882,000 check, shooting him up to 59th on the money list and 44th in FedEx Cup points.

A perfect drive and approach at No. 18 -- the tournament's third-toughest hole -- set Bateman up for his 12-footer that kept him out of a playoff and earned him a two-year exemption on the Tour and an invitation to the 2008 Masters.

"It's a life-changing week," he said. "A life-changing putt.

"I teared up in the fairway on 18, knowing I was finally giving myself a chance," he said.

Jason Gore (67), Justin Leonard (67), and Woody Austin (69) finished tied for second.

Champions -- Lonnie Nielsen, who didn't win in five years on the PGA Tour and had made 91 starts on the Champions Tour without a victory, shot a 2-under 69 for a two-stroke victory over Loren Roberts in the Commerce Bank Championship in East Meadow, N.Y.

Nielsen, who won 32 titles on smaller tours, entered the final round with a three-stroke lead and was never threatened.

"Walking up that 18th fairway I couldn't have gotten a word out," said Nielsen, who turned 54 Friday. "The people were giving me a nice ovation. Then I got up near the green and saw a couple of buddies standing there and I was pretty choked up. I had to get the tears out of my eyes and two-putt from 10 feet and I did."

Roberts, who had a one-stroke lead after opening with a 64, shot a 66 yesterday. His second-round 71 proved to be his undoing.

Nielsen shot a 64 Saturday to take the three-shot lead that tied the tournament record for 36 holes.

European -- Graeme Storm won his first Tour title, capturing the French Open in Versailles with a one-stroke victory over Soren Hansen. Storm closed with a 5-under 66 for a 7-under 277 total. He started the day in eighth place.

Simon Kahn, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, and Damien McGrane were two strokes back at 279. Montgomerie led with four holes left but had bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16.

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