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Underachiever Bateman finally breaks through

GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) — Brian Bateman enjoys relaxing with his pregnant wife at their new house, where he cooks about four nights a week, while collecting cook books and guitars.

What does he plan to do with the $882,000 check he earned Sunday at the Buick Open after winning for the first time on the PGA Tour?

"I'll invest in a few pots and pans," he said.

Before describing himself as a simple guy, Bateman said he has been a "tremendous underachiever" during his six seasons on the Tour.

He came to Warwick Hills 204th on the money list and became the improbable winner with a birdie on the final hole that broke a four-way tie.

"I feel a lot better now about my career," Bateman said.

His best finish previously was third before he closed with a 3-under-par 69 to finish 15-under 273 and win by a shot with the highest winning score at Warwick Hills since 1997.

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, earned him a two-year Tour exemption and an invitation to the 2008 Masters.

"I've been out here for six years and I've only played in one major," said Bateman, referring to the 2004 PGA Championship. "I've been close to playing at Augusta."

The 34-year-old native and resident of Monroe, La., earned a check that surpassed his total earnings in all but one of his previous five years on the PGA Tour. He made just more than $900,000 in 2004, when he finished a career-best 86th on the money list.

Bateman shot up to 59th on the money list and 44th in FedEx Cup points.

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

Bateman's victory came in his 151st PGA Tour event.

"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 and Vijay Singh didn't make their usual appearance.

Woods (home with his wife and baby) and Singh (resting a sore elbow) didn't play at the Buick Open for the first time since 2001 after combining to win four of the previous five.

In a tournament that started in 1958, Bateman was just the second player to birdie 18 for a one-shot victory. Rocco Mediate did it in 2000.

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