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Hoch, Furyk call it an early night at Doral

Published Aug. 31, 2005

Scott Hoch doesn't quite trust his vision in bright sunlight, let alone near darkness.

At 47, his golf skills are intact, but his eyesight is a bother, even after three laser surgeries in the past year.

So when he had a difficult time judging the line on his 9-foot birdie putt early Sunday evening at the Doral Resort's "Blue Monster" course, Hoch thought it would be best to finish the Ford Championship at Doral this morning.

So the sudden-death playoff between Hoch and Jim Furyk was halted to the sound of booing fans beside the No. 1 green.

"I got my eyes fixed, but he didn't give me night vision," Hoch said. "There's too much riding on this to go with guesswork. I couldn't differentiate what the green is doing. I'd rather putt knowing what I see than what I think."

Last spring, Hoch was unable to defend his title at the Greensboro tournament because of complications in his left eye from his original surgery. He had two more surgeries to correct the problem and still wears a contact lens in that eye.

PGA Tour officials gave the players the option of continuing or stopping. Play was suspended at 6:33 p.m., seven minutes after sunset.

Furyk said he was okay with the decision, though he said he would have been fine if they had continued, too. Both have birdie putts on the first green after parring the first playoff hole, No. 18. Furyk is only 6 feet away.

"It's awkward in golf to hear that much noise or animosity," Furyk said. "I understand. They have to go to work (today), and they wanted to see it finish. Winning a golf tournament is important and not being able to read a putt I think the right decision was made."

The playoff continues at 8 a.m. ESPN is scheduled to televise it live. If the players remain tied, they will return to the 18th.

Hoch, who was tied for the third-round lead with Bob Tway, shot 69, getting up and down from near the bleachers behind the 18th green for a par that forced the playoff.

Moments earlier, Furyk had missed the same green in almost the same spot, also getting up and down for par, which meant a 68 and 72-hole total of 17-under 271.

Tway shot 71 for third at 273. Dade City's Tim Petrovic shot 67 to finish fourth and earned $240,000. Mike Weir, the PGA Tour's leading money winner who entered two shots out of the lead, shot 74 and tied for 14th.

Hoch and Tway had chances to end the tournament in regulation, but were unable to get short-iron approach shots close to the pin at the 443-yard, par-4 18th. They were perplexed that their shots flew the green.

In the playoff, the advantage went to Hoch when Furyk's tee shot hooked left into a bunker, with his path to the green blocked by a palm tree. Furyk's 9-iron approach flew over the green into the bleachers, and when Hoch hit his second shot to within 15 feet, it appeared the tournament would be over.

But after Furyk took a drop, he hit a delicate chip to within a few inches of the hole for par. And when Hoch could not get his birdie putt to fall, the playoff went to the par-5 first, where it eventually was halted with both players on the green.

"There was a lot going on out there," Furyk said. "It's strange, the whole thing, the finish."

So what's at stake this morning?

Well, $360,000. The winner will get $900,000, while second place pays $540,000.

For Hoch, a 24-year PGA Tour veteran, it would be his 11th PGA Tour victory, making him the oldest to win on tour since Tom Watson won the Colonial in 1998 at age 48. For Furyk, in his 10th season, it would be his eighth win and give him a victory in six consecutive seasons.

And it all could be decided in a matter of minutes.