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Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am

Watson defends title at Outback Pro-Am

LUTZ

Tom Watson sat in the scorer's trailer behind the 18th green at TPC of Tampa Bay with his eyes on his scorecard and his ears tuned to the large gallery around the green. All Watson knew is that his bogey on the final hole dropped him into a tie with Scott Hoch, and if Hoch drained his 4-foot par putt, the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am would go to a playoff. ¶ Then Watson heard the "ooohs" and "ahhhs." ¶ Hoch missed the putt, handing Watson the championship by a stroke in a tournament that will best be remembered for the players who didn't win as much as by the one who did. Watson, who shot a final-round

70 for a three-day 9-under 204, became the first in the Champions Tour event's 21-year history in Tampa Bay to defend his title. He won $255,000.

Hoch tied for second with Jay Haas, who shot 7-under 64 much earlier in the day to finish at 8 under.

"I backed in the back door of this tournament for sure," Watson said. "I didn't go out and win it, but you never know what's going to happen out here."

What happened was a collapse by the second-round leader, Mark Wiebe, and a gut-wrenching miss by Hoch that brought back memories of the 1989 Masters. Hoch missed a 30-inch putt then lost in a playoff to Nick Faldo at Augusta National.

Hoch's miss Sunday cost him a playoff with Watson. He hit his approach on 18 dangerously close to the creek on the right side of the green. Then his chip nearly went in before sliding exactly 4 feet, 3 inches past. The par putt caught a piece of the hole before going another 4 feet past.

"I just hit a terrible putt," said Hoch, the only player in the field who birdied the 18th the first two days. "It was a pitiful putt. I guess I just thought it was a foregone conclusion. There was nothing to it. And I thought I made the chip shot. I was still thinking that I already made the chip shot."

Standing on the green while Hoch missed the putt was playing partner Wiebe, who was already out of the tournament after a devastating two holes. Wiebe held a three-shot lead on the 15th tee after birdie on the 14th got him to 12 under. But his drive caught the water on the left edge of the fairway. He was forced to hit another drive, which landed in the bunker on the left side. He could only pitch out to the fairway before settling for triple-bogey 7.

Then came double bogey on the par-3 17th that sealed his fate. He finished the day with 5-over 76 after rounds of 66 and 65. He went from first to a tie for fifth and $74,800 in 90 minutes.

"It wasn't the first drive on 15 that cost me; it was the second one," he said. "It hurt because I had to lay up out of the trap. My driver was my favorite club, and it let me down. It was my MVP. Hard to believe."

Through it all, there was Watson. He started the day three shots behind Wiebe, and he didn't make a big move to catch him. Yet he didn't get into much trouble like Hoch and Wiebe. Watson cruised along with two bogeys and three birdies on the front nine and five straight pars on the back nine. He birdied the par-4 15th hole to take a one-shot lead but squandered it on 18.

After a solid drive, he hit a 7-iron that rolled into the creek. He chipped out and made a 5-foot putt for bogey.

"I didn't do a very good job with the 7-iron on the 18th hole," Watson said. "I knew the wind was there, and I hit a lousy shot. I started the ball right of my aiming point, about 30 feet, and that nearly cost me the tournament.

"I didn't hit the best of chips. And then I have one of those putts that I've had trouble with the past 15 years. I felt pretty good over the putt. I had a sense of calm over it I haven't had for a while on the golf course. I said, 'Well, it's just do-or-die.' I've got to make it. If I don't make it, I lose."

Although not one of Watson's most memorable wins, it is his 50th on the PGA and Champions tours, and he'll find a place for it in his trophy case.

"It's one of those things where you just didn't go out and win it," Watson said. "I didn't do a Tiger (Woods) or Lorena (Ochoa) and just run away with the tournament. It's always satisfying to win, let's put it that way. But there's more satisfaction when you go out there and take it."

>>Outback pro-am

Final leaderboard

Tom Watson63-71-70204-9

Scott Hoch67-67-71205-8

Jay Haas70-71-64205-8

John Cook70-68-68206-7

Mark Wiebe66-65-76207-6

Tom Jenkins70-66-71207-6

David Eger66-74-68208-5

Notables

Nick Price73-65-71209-4

Gary Koch69-69-72210-3

Curtis Strange73-72-66211-2

Loren Roberts72-72-69213E

Mark O'Meara69-75-72216+3

Ochoa, again

Lorena Ochoa shatters the course record by seven strokes at the Ginn Open in Reunion to win her fourth straight LPGA Tour event. 7C

Watson defends title at Outback Pro-Am 04/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 7:52am]
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