Winner’s Circle Still Belongs To Els
This is becoming a familiar sight on American golf courses these days Ernie Els on an 18th green in the golden sunlight of an early Sunday evening, raising his arms in victory.
It happened at last week’s U.S. Open, and it happened again Sunday at the Buick Classic at Harrison, N.Y., as Els overcame shaky putting and a two-hour rain delay for a two-stroke victory over Jeff Maggert.
Unlike last Sunday at Congressional, when Els hugged his caddy Ricci Roberts after making his final putt, this time Maggert gave him a bear hug - and then tried to hip toss the big South African off his feet.
“I was trying to shove him down into the green there - smash him,” Maggert said. “He’s pretty big. I couldn’t take him down. He was a good rugby player, obviously.”
For the second straight year at the Westchester Country Club nobody could throw Els, though they came closer this year than in 1996, when he ran away from the field by eight strokes.
Els became the first wire-to-wire repeat champion on the PGA Tour since Tom Watson won the Tournament of Champions in 1979 and 1980 at La Costa Country Club in Carlsbad, Calif. Els also became the first golfer since Hale Irwin in 1990 to win on tour the week after winning the U.S. Open.
With Sunday’s victory, Els displaced Tiger Woods as the No. 1 player in golf according to the Sony world rankings.
Els shot a 2-under-par 69 for a 72-hole total of 16-under 268, tying the tournament record for the best four-round score held by David Frost (1992) and Lee Janzen (1994).
From the moment Els took an eight-shot lead with six holes to play Saturday, Maggert pushed him by doing something Els mostly stopped doing - making putts.
It wasn’t until Els made a birdie on No. 8 and Maggert bogeyed on 11 that Els opened a three-shot lead and had a comfortable enough margin to survive.
Hammel prevails in LPGA
At Rochester, N.Y., Penny Hammel, whose devotion to golf dissolved after her brother’s death five years ago, bolted free of a leader-board logjam to win the Rochester International by one stroke.
Her fourth tour victory, but first since 1991, came at the expense of defending champion Dottie Pepper, who missed a 2-foot par putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff.
“You don’t want to wish anything bad on a fellow competitor but I was relieved,” said Hammel, who shot a 4-under-par 68 for a 9-under 279 total. Winning again “was like a monkey off my back.”
Pepper, who closed with a 71, backpedaled into a three-way tie for second with Tammie Green (68), the 1993 champion, and Nanci Bowen (71).
Robin Walton of Clarkston finished at 2-over (73-69-75-73290) and took home $2,464.
Marsh wins Senior by one
At Alpharetta, Ga., Australian Graham Marsh shot a 2-under-par 70 and held off Hale Irwin to win the $1.3 million Nationwide Championship Senior tournament by one stroke.
Marsh finished the 54 holes at 205, 11-under-par over the par-72, 6,777-yard Golf Club of Georgia Lakeside Course. He earned $195,000 for his first victory of the year, increasing his earnings to $586,726 in 15 events.
Irwin, the leading money winner, began the day two shots off Marsh’s lead. He made it close with a 69 for 206.
Marsh had a three-stroke lead with two holes to play, but bogeyed No. 17. The lead dropped to one when Irwin birdied No. 18, but Marsh won when he two-putted from 35 feet for par.
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