Sindelar's waiting game finally ends

Posted: Monday, May 10, 2004

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Fourteen years and 370 tournaments removed from his last victory, Joey Sindelar made it worth the wait Sunday in the Wachovia Championship with an improbable rally and a playoff victory over fast-fading Arron Oberholser.

Sindelar, 46, birdied two of the last three holes, waited for Oberholser to wilt, then polished him off with a par on the second extra hole for his first victory since the 1990 Hardee's Golf Classic.

''I never, ever gave up hope,'' Sindelar said. ''This feels way too good. It's a thrill. It will take me a while to understand this is real.''

Oberholser might need some time to recover from a stunning collapse at Quail Hollow.

Two shots ahead with three to play, his first PGA Tour victory firmly in his grasp, the pressure overcame him. He bogeyed the next two holes and needed a brilliant recovery from the trees on No. 18 just to force the playoff.

Sindelar closed with a 69, while Oberholser had a 72. They finished at 11-under 277.

Tiger Woods, errant as ever, gave himself a chance with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th and nearly chipped in for birdie on the 18th. He closed with a 68 and joined Carlos Franco one shot behind.

Oberholser appeared to have this locked up. He never lost his lead all day, and when his 5-wood into the 15th hole stopped 8 feet away for eagle, he pumped his fist with passion.

But those finishing holes can expose the slightest nerves, and Oberholser was loaded with them.

He hooked his tee shot on the 16th , had to punch out to the fairway and then overshot the green. Only a great chip allowed him to escape with bogey.

Then, he badly pulled his tee shot on the 17th and got a huge break the ball was one turn away from going in the water. From the hazard line, he chipped to 10 feet and missed the putt.

Suddenly, he was tied at 11 under with Sindelar, who two groups ahead made a terrific charge. He holed a 15-foot birdie on No. 16, then hit his approach to 3 feet on the par-3 17th, the hardest hole at Quail Hollow.

A playoff looked out of the question when Oberholser, protecting from the stream down the left side, blocked his tee shot into the trees. With a large pine causing him to alter his backswing, he hit a high shot that squeezed through a gap in the trees and stopped 45 feet from the cup for a two-putt par.

Both players made par on No. 18, and they went to No. 16, where Oberholser's troubles started. The second time around was no different. He pulled his approach into the bunker, blasted out to 10 feet and had to make a 5-footer for bogey. Sindelar ran his 30-foot birdie putt about 4 feet past the hole, but calmly rolled it in.

It was his seventh career victory and paid off $1.08 million, more than he had earned in any of his 20 previous seasons on tour.

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