Brian Gay thought so little of his chance to play his way into the U.S. Open in his last possible chance that he had plans for a week off. Not even a tentative plan sketched out just in case.

Well, he better figure something out pretty quickly. His wire-to-wire victory yesterday in the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., punched his ticket to Bethpage Black on Long Island.

"Right now I don't know if we're going home first [to Florida] or what we're going to do, whether we spend tomorrow traveling, going home and repacking," said Gay. "Get to work on Tuesday, I guess."

Gay went to Memphis as one of seven players with a chance to grab the Open exemption as a multiple winner in the last calendar year. He responded with his second win in his last five events and the third victory of his career, beating David Toms and Bryce Molder by five strokes.

"I felt I had to go out and play golf. If I won, I'd get the chance to play," said Gay, who grabbed the $1,008,000 winner's check at TPC Southwind in runaway style, too.

Gay led by only a stroke after each of the first three rounds, then shot his third straight 4-under 66 to pull away. He birdied three of the first six holes to take all the suspense out of the final round, and birdied the 18th to finish at 18-under 262.

Toms finished with a 65, and Molder had a 70. John Senden (64), Paul Goydos (68) and Robert Allenby (69) tied for fourth at 12 under.

"It was a pretty good golf tournament except for one guy stealing the show," said Toms, the winner in 2003 and 2004.

Phil Mickelson, in his first event since announcing wife Amy has breast cancer, and John Daly, returning from a 6-month PGA Tour suspension, tied for 59th at 1 over. Mickelson closed with a 75, and Daly shot a 70.

In another tournament:

* At Knoxville, Tenn., Kevin Johnson tied the Nationwide Tour career victory record and moved within a win of an in-season promotion to the PGA Tour, beating Bradley Iles with a birdie on the second playoff hole in the Knoxville Open. Johnson closed with a 4-under 68 to match Iles at 20-under 268 on the Fox Den Country Club course. Isles tied the course record with a 63.

Noteworthy

* Former Masters champion Trevor Immelman withdrew from the U.S. Open because of tendinitis in his left wrist and elbow.

* Champions Tour golfer Ken Green, injured in a recreational vehicle crash in Mississippi that killed his brother and girlfriend, will have his lower right leg amputated today, his agent said. *