POTOMAC -- Bob Estes doesn't show much emotion, on or off the golf course. The 36-year-old Texan looks like he could have been a sheriff in the Old West, turning chaos into calm.
Estes played a similar role yesterday in the final round of the $3.6 million Kemper Insurance Open at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel. In fact, he played it all the way to the fourth victory of his PGA Tour career.
While everyone else in contention seemed to have more flair for the dramatic -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- Estes made 17 pars and one birdie in a numbingly efficient round of a 1-under-par 70 to beat 1999 Kemper champion Rich Beem by one shot.
Former PGA champion Steve Elkington finished two strokes back, as did Estes' third-round co-leader, Bob Burns, who held a two-shot lead after making a hole-in-one on the par-3 11th hole.
"It was a U.S. Open kind of set-up and round," said Estes, who finished with a four-round total of 11-under 273. "I think my experience playing in lot of major championships and other big tournaments really helped me today."
The inexperience Burns had under pressure contributed to his demise. Immediately after his ace, Burns bogeyed the par-4 12th and later threw away any chance of a possible playoff with a double-bogey on the par-4 16th.
Estes, ranked No. 22 in the world coming into the Kemper, made one routine par after another. He started his round with 13 straight pars before making his only birdie, on the par-4 14th hole, to tie Burns at 11 under. Estes then closed with four more pars.
`That's one of the things I pride myself on; I hate to make mental mistakes," said Estes, whose first-place check for $648,000 lifted his season's earnings to $1,260,718 and his career earnings to over $9.7 million.
So focused was Estes on his target that he didn't hear a fan behind the 17th tee yell "In the water!" just as he began his backswing. The ball came a lot closer to going in the hole than in the water, finally settling 8 feet past the cup.
"I wanted to make that and have a two-shot lead going into the last hole," said Estes, who left the birdie putt a foot short. "Every tournament I've won on tour, I've won by one shot and I'm kind of getting tired of it.
"I would liked to have a three- or four-shot lead for once going down 18 so I can really enjoy it. That's why I couldn't get into it or anything like that. I still had work to do. I still had a long two-putt on 18."
After hitting his 3-wood safely in the fairway, Estes put his approach on the par-4 18th about 30 feet from the cup. He rolled his putt within a few inches and tapped in, raising his arms for a moment.
There would be no playoff, which certainly seemed a possibility with no fewer than four players holding a share of the lead at one time or another. While Estes played, as Burns would say, "like a machine, really rock-solid," everyone else made mistakes.
Elkington, who started the day three shots off the lead at 7 under, got to 11 under through 14 holes before bogeying 17 and 18. Beem, who began the round two shots behind, got to 11 under at 15 before also making a bogey on 17.
Burns had a chance to make things interesting when his 35-foot birdie attempt on the par-3 17th stopped one rotation short of the cup.
"If that putt goes in, I'm back in the tournament," said Burns, who parred 17 and saved par on 18 from out of a bunker to finish with a 1-over 72. "Rich still had a chance if Bob made a bogey on 18."
But that is not the way Estes works. Even this season, when all Estes could manage were a couple of fifth-place ties, he still ranked seventh in hitting greens in regulation going into the Kemper.
The difference between this season and last -- when he finished a career-best ninth on the money list -- has been putting. While Estes wasn't spectacular yesterday as he shifted between a conventional grip and the trendy cross-handed style, he was solid.
"I'm a very good putter for the most part, but I just wasn't making enough putts," he said. "So I knew if I continued to hit the ball the way I was hitting it and just figure something out with the putter, then something like this week was bound to happen. I was just giving myself too many good opportunities."
Estes thought his winning score could have been a lot lower. But while others around him saw their names move all about the leader board, Estes merely walked with his shoulders straight and his jaw firm.
When Burns made his ace, the only thing Estes shook was Burns' hand.
"When Bob made the ace on No. 11, I was happy for him," Estes said. "I had every intention of making my birdie and I would have been one shot back, but I still knew we had a lot of golf left and on this course there's so much danger that even one or two shots with that many holes left is not that big a deal."
After his only birdie -- an 18-footer on the par-4 14th -- Estes took the safest route home.
"The golf course didn't allow you to play very aggressively," he said.
So Estes didn't.
And he won, turning chaos into calm at Avenel. There was a new sheriff in town.
The winner ...
Bob Estes 65-69-69-70-273
... and selected followers
Rich Beem 68-68-69-69-274
Steve Elkington 70-67-69-69-275
Bob Burns 68-66-69-72-275
Greg Norman 67-65-74-73-279
Complete scores. [Page 8c]