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Els wins in rain in North Carolina for second Champions title

Ernie Els birdied the final two holes, running in a 40-footer in the rain on the last, for a 6-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over Colin Montgomerie on Sunday in the SAS Championship.

Els made the long putt on the par-4 18th three weeks after missing a 2-foot putt on the final hole of the Pure Championship at Pebble Beach to finish a stroke out of a playoff.

“It’s a crazy game,” Els said. “A couple of weeks ago I missed a very short putt to get in a playoff and today I make a 40-footer. Figure that one out.”

Jim Furyk missed a chance to become the first player to win his first three PGA Tour Champions events, closing with a 70 to tie for ninth at 8 under — four strokes behind Els. Furyk won at Warwick Hills and Pebble Beach.

Els won for second time in his first 10 starts on the 50-and-over tour. The South African star, a four-time major champion with 19 PGA Tour titles, finished at 12-under 204 at Prestonwood Country Club. He pointed to putting help from fellow player Mark O’Meara.

“Just by chance I saw him on the putting green the other day and we just started chatting a little bit,” Els said. “He uses the same putter that I use, so we started talking a little bit and I said, `Hey, have a look here.’ I didn’t have a great experience at Pebble obviously a couple weeks ago. He looked at me, and he’s a great putter and knowing a man that long, he gave me a nice assist. He told me what he felt I should do and here I am. So, I owe Mark O’Meara.”

Els tied Montgomerie, playing three groups behind, with the birdie on the par-5 17th and pulled ahead on 18.

“I had 64 in mind,” Els said. “Especially on the final round, the guys, there were so many guys bunched. I was coming from 6 under, I reckoned 14 under was maybe a good score, but then the conditions helped out and it became really tough. So, 66 just squeaked in there.”

Montgomerie, tied for the second-round lead with Darren Clarke and Woody Austin, parred the final four holes — giving himself little chance on 18 when he hit his 190-yard approach 50 feet left. He shot a 70.

Vijay Singh (70) was third at 10 under. Austin (72) was 9 under with Gene Sauers (67), Robert Karlsson (68), Kirk Triplett (69 ) and David Toms (71). Clarke (74) tied for 11th at 7 under.

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