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Daly-Davies win Classic finale

 
Published Dec. 6, 1999|Updated Sept. 30, 2005

After charging from behind on the back nine, the power-hitting pair beats Azinger-Pak on the third playoff hole to claim title at event's farewell.

They both have more impressive victories on their resumes, wins that stamped them as major champions. But John Daly and Laura Davies won't soon forget their JCPenney Classic title, unofficial or otherwise.

The long-bombing duo provided the Classic with a stirring final tournament in front of a large sun-splashed crowd Sunday as they birdied two of the last three holes, then defeated Paul Azinger and Se Ri Pak on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Westin Innisbrook Resort.

Although the win doesn't count in the PGA and LPGA record books, it was Davies' first victory of the year in the United States and Daly's first of any kind since he won the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews.

And the money still spends. Each player earned $220,000 from the $2-million purse.

"It's unbelievable," said Daly, 33, who combined with Davies to shoot 7-under-par 64 at the Copperhead course and completed the 72-hole tournament at 260, 24 under par. "For this being the last year of the JCPenney, to win with Laura is one of the greatest wins I could have. It was fun. Whether we played good or bad, we were smiling and laughing.

"What a way to end this drought I've had for four years. Hopefully I can build some confidence on it, go out and play a lot better golf than I have been."

Daly's troubles have been well-chronicled, including two stints in alcohol rehabilitation, his admission of huge gambling debts and the recent disclosure that he is drinking again.

Davies' problems have been more confined to the golf course, where the British star won five times overseas this year, but came up short in the United States, usually because of poor putting.

It was Davies, 36, who made the 6-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to send the tournament into a playoff, and it was Davies who made a 35-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th to win the tournament.

"It's one of the most enjoyable wins I've ever had," said Davies, who has 17 LPGA Tour victories, including four major championships and has some 60 victories worldwide. "It's fun to win with someone else.

"We always have our caddie there with us and they celebrate with us and enjoy it with us, as well as our families. But to have someone else who is hitting all the shots with you, to enjoy that with them it's just fun. A lot of fun."

Meanwhile, Azinger and Pak, who shot 2-under-par 69, ended the JCPenney Classic _ which was being played for the last time _ by surrendering the biggest 54-hole lead in tournament history. They led by four at the start of the day. No team had failed to win after taking a three-stroke lead or greater into the final round.

"I'm disappointed _ big time," said Azinger, who was seeking his first victory of any kind since being diagnosed and then returning from lymphoma in 1993. "But in the scheme of things, it's really not that big of a deal.

"With all that's happened this year, it's not the end of the world. I thought we were both very comfortable out there, but 2 under is just not good enough."

Daly and Davies never expected their big payday when the final round began. They trailed Azinger and Pak by five strokes. Scott Gump and Maria Hjorth were second, four shots back.

The five-stroke deficit remained with nine holes to play.

With three holes left, they still were three shots behind. "The way they were playing, I thought they would run away with it," Daly said. "I think Laura and I both did."

"I thought if we could shoot 9 under, I thought we'd be close, but probably not close enough," Davies said.

"So really, that says we didn't fancy it, because 9 under is hard work."

They pulled to within two shots when Davies hit her 5-iron approach at the 16th to 35 feet, a putt that Daly made for an improbable birdie. A short time later, Azinger and Pak bogeyed the hole, dropping their advantage to one.

That set up the 18th, where Daly's sand wedge shot from 115 yards stopped 6 feet from the cup. Davies made the putt, then waited.

Azinger and Pak had a chance to win in regulation, and gave themselves an excellent opportunity when Azinger hit his approach 9 feet behind the hole at No. 18. But Pak missed the putt, sending the tournament into overtime.

Gump and Hjorth finished two strokes out of the playoff, tied for third.

The playoff began at No. 18, then went to the 16th, where both teams parred.

So the tournament came down to the par-3 17th, where Daly's 5-iron approach on the 211-yard hole left his partner a 35-foot birdie putt, which she made. Pak, the 1998 LPGA Tour rookie of the year who defeated Davies in a playoff last month to win the LPGA Tour Championship, could not come through this time, missing a 25-footer to extend the tournament.

"If she ever says she can't putt again, I'm going to come after her," Daly said of Davies.

"Three of the last four holes were clutch, and she made every one of them."

Daly was glad to feel the heat for something he was doing on the golf course. Since the second of his two major championships at the 1995 British Open, the long-driving fan-favorite had barely been in contention.

He had just four top-10 finishes since then, none this year. His best finish after March was a tie for 36th.

"Anytime you win out here, whether it's a format like this or any tournament, the players are so good now, a win's a win," Daly said.

"And what a great one to have."