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Archive for Monday, July 10, 2000

Allenby thrives in sudden death

Australian golfer wins Western Open for second OT victory of PGA career

July 10, 2000

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— Put Robert Allenby in a playoff, and no one else stands a chance.

The Australian won the Western Open for his second PGA Tour title Sunday, tapping in a 2-foot par putt to beat Nick Price on the first extra hole. Allenby won his first title by beating Craig Stadler on the fourth playoff hole in the Houston Open in April.

Counting his years on the Australasian and European tours, Allenby is six-for-six in playoffs.

"Playoffs must agree with me," he said, laughing. "A win's a win. I really don't care how I get it."

It was the second time a playoff has cost Price a Western Open title. Tom Kite won the 1986 tournament on the first extra hole of a playoff with Price, Fred Couples and David Frost.

"I've lost two playoffs in the Western Open, but when I look back, this tournament has been so good to me," Price said. "When you look at that champions roster, there's some serious names on there. To have my name on there three times would be great. I've still got another couple of cracks at it."

Allenby and Price finished regulation at 14-under 274 and went back to the par-4 18th to begin the playoff. Price made things tough on himself right away, putting his tee shot into a bunker on the right side of the fairway.

"Out of the last, maybe, 13 holes, I hit three good tee shots," Price sid. "After awhile, it starts working its way into your game a little bit."

With a cluster of trees blocking his way to the hole, he played it safe and punched out to the fairway. But with Allenby on the green in two, Price needed to put his next shot close to the pin. Instead, it hit the green and rolled off, finally stopping in the rough about 18 feet from the hole.

Allenby missed an 18-foot birdie putt but tapped in for par, forcing Price to hole his chip shot to force a second playoff hole. The two-time Western Open winner came within a few inches, but his ball rolled right on by to make Allenby the champion.

"To beat Nick Price in a playoff is awesome," said Allenby, who won $540,000. "I was very fortunate, very lucky."

Greg Kraft, Shigeki Maruyama and Jim Furyk tied for third at 12-under 276. Tiger Woods, playing his first tournament since his amazing 15-stroke victory in the U.S. Open, never got his putter going and finished seven strokes back at 7-under 281.

It was his worst finish since a tie for 37th in the Sprint International last August. Coincidentally, that finish came a week after he won the PGA Championship, his second major.

Woods probably could have taken home his third Western Open trophy if he'd only made half of the putts he missed. He missed so many -- short and long -- he almost looked like a weekend hacker.

"I just didn't make any putts. When that happens, you're not going to go very low," said Woods, who shot an even-par 72 on Sunday. "Overall, I hit the ball beautifully, hit a lot of good, solid shots, held the ball in the wind. I drove it great this week. I just didn't make any of those 10- or 15-footers to get the momentum going."

After seven birdies in 10 holes, Allenby appeared to have the title wrapped up with a birdie on the par-5 15th that moved him to 16 under, two strokes ahead of Price. But the Australian duffed a chip shot just off the green on 16, hitting the lip of a bunker. The ball dropped into the bunker, and Allenby settled for bogey.

After Price missed birdie putts on 16 and 17, all Allenby had to do was par the 18th -- something he'd done the first three days. But it wasn't that easy.

His second shot landed on the back, right side of the green, uphill from the pin that was tucked in the bottom, left corner. Hit it too hard, and the ball would roll into the water. Hit it too soft, and it would stop.

Using a sand wedge, Allenby gently tapped the ball. The ball picked up speed as it rolled and got within an inch of the cup, coming so close its shadow covered the cup. But it kept going, rolling about 10 feet past the hole as Allenby bent his head.

He then missed his par putt when it curled away from the hole.

"I suppose he bogeyed 18 in the final round of regulation, so we both bogeyed the hole," Price said. "I just bogeyed it the wrong time."

Playing in the group behind Allenby, Price knew he could win with a birdie. But he sent his drive screaming off to the left side and then sent his second shot dribbling off the green into the sloping rough.

Price chipped within 2 feet, and he and Allenby were headed for the playoff.

"At the start of the year, I said to my coach, 'I know I can win, there's no doubt in my mind. It's just a matter of finding a way to win,"' Allenby said. "To win twice ... that's just awesome. It's just great."

Divots: Woods hit a spectator with his second shot on the par-5 No. 5, opening a small gash on the right side of William Fick's face near the bridge of the nose. Woods apologized to Fick, shook his hand twice and gave him a ball. ... Total attendance for the week was 188,980, topping last year's crowd of 188,980. ... Lee Janzen, who began the day one stroke off the lead, shot a 75 to finish five strokes back.

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