This time, however, was different. Norman said it

By Rusty Miller Associated Press Published:

This time, however, was different.

Norman said it was his brain _ not his brawn _ that powered him to a 3-under-par 67 Sunday and a come-from-behind victory in the NEC World Series of Golf.

"I'm a strong believer you don't come to a Firestone Country Club and overpower the golf course," Norman said after coming from two strokes down to a four-shot victory. "I think the secret to playing around here is to keep the ball in play. It's a course where you have to play within your capabilities and not try to force the issue."

Unlike two years ago, when he had to hole a 66-foot 7-iron chip on the first playoff hole to win at Firestone Country Club, Norman took command by staying out of trouble and picking his spots to overcome third-round leader John Cook and defending champion Phil Mickelson.

"The way I played from the 7th hole on was very strong," he said after finishing at 7-under 273. "I never really put myself in any position to be in trouble or to be in a struggle, except at 18. I knew Phil and Cookie weren't going to disappear. I had to go out and do the job and I got the job done."

He collected $396,000 and a 10-year PGA Tour exemption, continuing his mastery of the World Series while playing in heavy rains that pelted the course most of the day.

Norman is the leading money-winner in the history of the tournament with more than $1.1 million in his 14 appearances _ an average of $82,180 every time he has teed it up. He has finished in the top eight the last seven times he's played in the World Series.

The 42-year-old Australian followed three pars with a birdie on the par-4 4th to gain a share of the lead with Cook and Mickelson.

Bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7 dropped Norman two shots off the pace, but he began his resurgence by hitting an 18-foot birdie putt at the 8th hole.

"At that stage, I still knew I was right in the thick of it," he said. "When I went to the 8th tee, I knew the guys behind me weren't doing anything."

He rolled in an 18-foot putt for birdie at the 11th and his 5-iron tee shot at the par-3 12th ended up 7 feet from the pin. The slippery, sidehill putt gave him the lead.

Norman rolled in another 7-footer at 14. When Cook _ who was distracted on the tee by gallery noise and pushed his drive far to the right _ later bogeyed the same hole, Norman's lead swelled to three strokes.

"When I wanted something to go right, it went wrong," Cook said. "I'm disappointed I didn't put together my best effort. I didn't want it to end like this."

Cook, who grew up in Akron and whose father is the World Series tournament manager, came back with a birdie on the next hole but gave it right back with a bogey at the 16th, the 625-yard "Monster."

Norman put the tournament away by knocking his 5-iron approach at the 17th to 7 feet for another birdie. He closed with a bogey after one of his few mistakes, a wild drive that resulted him chipping backwards into the 10th fairway just to have a shot at the 18th green.

Mickelson didn't have a birdie in his round of 2-over 72, which gave him second place at 3-under 277.

"It was disappointing because I feel like I played well," he said. "I don't feel like I lost today. I just didn't go out and win it, and Greg did."

Cook faded to a 74 and ended up tied for third at 278 with Tiger Woods, who closed with a 70 in his first appearance ever at the World Series, and Fred Funk, who had a final-round 68.

"It was brutal today," Woods said. "The rough was long and gnarly. The greens were pretty spiky. Those combinations are tough."

Vijay Singh shot the day's low round, a 66, to close at 279.

Only six players in the 46-man field were able to break par.

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