CHASKA, Minn., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Rich Beem, who seven years ago gave up the game thinking he was not good enough to compete, became golf's newest major championship winner Sunday.
Not only that, he managed to do something that no player has ever done. He won a major title that seemed all but destined to belong to Tiger Woods.
Employing a go-for-broke attitude that has brought him from obscurity to the top of his profession in less than a month, Beem won the PGA Championship by one shot over the world's top player.
"I didn't know if I had what it took to win," said Beem, who will turn 32 next Saturday. "Now I do. And I'm still surprised. I was shaking out there today, but somehow I was able to control my emotions."
Beem denied Woods another piece of golfing history and became the 12th player in 15 years to make the PGA his first major title.
Having won the most important tournament of his career two weeks ago at The International, Beem backed that up by playing the round of his life Sunday. He shot a 4-under 68, opened as much as a five-shot lead midway through the back nine and then held on as Woods produced a typically remarkable stretch in which he birdied the last four holes.
Needing only to bogey the final hole for the victory, Beem did just that. He finished 72 holes at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in 10-under 278.
Woods has eight major championships to his credit and was trying to get to the halfway mark in his march to the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. Instead, Woods wound up second in a professional major for the first time. Nicklaus had 19 second-place finishes in major tournaments.
Chris Riley, winless in four years on the PGA Tour, finished alone in third place at 283 --- a distant five shots back. Justin Leonard, who began the day with a three-shot lead as he sought his second major crown, struggled through a dismal 77 and wound up tied for fourth at 284 with Fred Funk.
The beginning of the end for Leonard came when he put his tee shot at the par-3 eighth into the water en route to a double bogey.
Beem began the most important day of his golfing life three shots off the lead, but thanks to a 2-under 34 on the front nine he had moved in front when he made the turn.
His lead, however, was just one shot and the player in second place was Woods -- who was in perfect position to claim his third major title of the year. Most of the great players of the current generation have faced Woods with a major title on the line and they have consistently come up short.
Beem did not. He hit two heroic shots on the back nine while Woods suffered a brief mistep that eventually cost him the championship.
Beem was still just one shot in front when he came to the par-5 11th hole, where he hit a perfect tee shot. Facing a second shot of almost 300 yards, Beem ripped a 5-wood that landed softly on the front part of the green and rolled to within six feet.
He went on to make that putt for the only eagle on that hole all week and his lead suddenly jumped to three shots.
With his rally having been answered by Beem, Woods briefly wilted. He three-putted the 13th green for bogey and drove into the deep rough at the 14th, leading to another bogey.
"But I said to myself that if I could birdie the last four holes, I would win the golf tournament," Woods said. "I did birdie the last four, but it wasn't good enough."
The fact that those four birdies were not good enough was due to the fact that Beem had one more great stroke left in his bag.
With cheers erupting in front of him because of Woods' late heroics, Beem hit his second shot at the dangerous, par-4 16th to within 25 feet and he rolled in the birdie putt to create a deafening roar of his own. Beem pumped his fist in the air when the ball went in the hole, then hurled the ball into the water in celebration.
That putt gave Beem a four-shot lead, which soon dwindled to two as Woods made birdie putts of 10 and five feet at the 17th and 18th. With a perfect tee shot at the final hole, however, Beem's victory was virtually certain.
He left himself 40 feet from the cup in two on the par-4 hole and could afford to take three putts from there. He did three putt, making the final one from 12 inches away as Woods watched on television in the scorer's tent.
"I didn't drive the ball very well this week," said Woods, who was trying to become the first player to win three majors in the same year twice. "And I didn't make many birdies. I only dropped five or six shots this week, but I didn't make enough birdies."
In 1995, Beem gave up the game briefly and sold cellular phones and car stereos in Seattle. But he soon began to play again, competing in mini-tours and eventually earning his PGA Tour card in 1999.
Until two weeks ago, when he claimed The International in Colorado, Beem's lone tour victory had come in the 1999 Kemper Open.
His win continued a tradition of first-time major championship winners at the PGA. Beginning in 1988, players who have made the PGA their first major title have included Jeff Sluman, Payne Stewart, Wayne Grady, John Daly, Nick Price, Paul Azinger, Steve Elkington, Mark Brooks, Davis Love, Vijay Singh and 2001 champion David Toms.
"Rich played great today," Woods said. "He shot a 4-under round and that's impressive to shoot a round like that when you absolutely have to do it."