Archive for Monday, July 10, 2000

Thompson snares first at State Farm

July 10, 2000


— Leonard Thompson's second win on the Senior PGA Tour was eerily similar to his first.

Thompson made a 2-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Sunday to ruin a sensational comeback by Isao Aoki and win the State Farm Senior Classic.

Aoki made up three shots over the final four holes to force the playoff. But after his 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole missed by an inch, Thompson calmly made an uphill putt for his second win over four years on the senior tour.

His other victory came at the 1998 Coldwell Banker Burnet Classic, when he beat Aoki in a two-hole playoff.

"I was calm as I could be, just like I was in the playoff with Aoki in Minnesota," Thompson said. "But I'm much better emotionally than I was two years ago."

Much of the improvement has come in the past two months, after Thompson began working with sports psychologist Debra Graham. He's finished in the top 10 in six of his last eight tournaments after failing to finish better than 15th in his first 13 events of the year.

"She helped me focus and put things into perspective on the golf course," he said. "I take my hat off to her and thank her."

Thompson, the co-leader after the second round, earned $202,500. He shot a 69 for a 205 total over 54 holes.

"I didn't putt great, but got enough close to the hole to get some birdie chances," he said. "I never lost my focus, never thought I was not going to make a shot I needed to make."

Both playoff holes were held on the par-5, 541-yard 18th. After Thompson made a 1-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, Aoki matched that with a 12-footer.

Thompson birdied No. 18 all five times he played the hole over the three-day tournament.

Aoki, who started the day four shots back in a 10th-place tie, shot a bogey-free 7-under 65.

"Last week I had an 83 in the last round. Today I had a 65, a big improvement," he said. "I didn't make a bogey, so I'm pretty happy."

He trailed Thompson by three strokes before getting a birdie on 15. He then got within a shot of the leader when Thompson got his only bogey of the day by three-putting on 16.

Aoki birdied 17 and finished the run with a fist-pumping 15-foot birdie putt on 18. He then watched as Thompson barely missed a 30-footer on 18 for an eagle and the win.

Aoki, who had only one top-10 finish in 11 events this year, was vying for his ninth career win on the senior tour.

Needing a birdie on 18 to tie for the lead, Larry Nelson bogeyed the hole to finished with a 69 for a 207, tied with second-round co-leader Dana Quigley, who shot a 71.

Hubert Green had a hole-in-one en route to a 70 and a tie at 208 with Bruce Fleisher and Jim Albus. Green's 22nd career hole-in-one came on the 152-foot, par-3 11th. Using a 7-iron, he hit a drive that bounced three times before rolling two feet into the cup.

Green followed that with a birdie on 12 to move 10 under, but fell out of contention with bogeys on 14 and 17.

Thompson started the day tied with Quigley and defending champion Christy O'Connor. Thompson distanced himself from the co-leaders on No. 3, when he made a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe to go 9 under.

Quigley lit up a cigar at No. 6 and immediately ran into trouble. He chunked a chip from the behind the green and bogeyed the hole, as did O'Connor.

Quigley and O'Connor also bogeyed the par-3 8th to fall four shots back. Quigley missed a 5-footer for par and O'Connor angrily hacked at the sand after his shot from the left bunker passed the hole by 30 feet. Thompson, meanwhile, made a 6-foot birdie putt to move to 10 under.

O'Connor shot a 75 and finished at 211.

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