Pampling takes International title

Posted: Monday, August 09, 2004

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. Holeouts, eagles and strings of birdies typically decide The International.

Not this year. With the winds swirling and the pins tucked, Rod Pampling pulled off just enough good shots to win his first PGA Tour event.

Pampling curled in a 21-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the 17th hole to move past Alex Cejka and win The International on Sunday.

''It was just a matter of hanging in there,'' said Pampling, the sixth first-time winner on the PGA Tour this year.

The difference, as usual, was the 492-yard, 17th hole.

Pampling stepped to the tee trailing Cejka by three points in the tournament's modified Stableford scoring system. After a big drive, Pampling hit a 7-iron onto the fringe just right of the flag. He then curled in the putt, pumping his fist as it dropped for five points.

Pampling closed with a par to finish with 31 points, taking home the $900,000 first-place check and some momentum heading into the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Not bad for a player best known for leading the first round of the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie and missing the cut the next day.

''I just keep myself in the present,'' said Pampling, who won an Australasian event in 1999 for his only other professional victory. ''I knew I could celebrate after I had finished my job.''

Tom Pernice was third with 27 points, and Duffy Waldorf had 26 to finish fourth.

Cejka, who trailed by a point at the start of the round, was hurt by double bogeys on Nos. 8 and 16, losing six points on those holes. Had it been a stroke-play tournament, Cejka would have beaten Pampling 71 to 73.

''Crazy things happen in this tournament,'' Cejka said.

No doubt.

Chris DiMarco had a commanding nine-point lead after scoring 31 points the first two rounds, only to see it slip away with eight bogeys in a third round that dropped him into a tie with Pampling.

DiMarco's collapse left 17 players within 10 points of the lead two eagles in this format and gave every one of the 44 players who made the cut a chance heading into a potentially wild final round.

There was plenty of wildness, but not the kind that normally comes in a format that awards players up to 8 points for a double eagle. With the course playing to a stroke average of 74 the fifth-highest final round on the PGA Tour this year The International's typical soundtrack of cheers and roars was replaced by groans and moans.

''No one took control early, which I thought it was there for it to happen,'' Pampling said.

Pampling at least tried.

The Aussie took the early lead with a birdie on the first hole, dropped into a tie after bogeys at Nos. 5 and 7 and went back ahead at No. 9 after Cejka's first double bogey.

Pernice moved into a brief tie for the lead at 28 points after Pampling had a bogey at the 10th, but dropped back with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12.

Pampling followed with a bogey on the par-4 12th after pulling his approach shot into the water left of the green saving it with a difficult 13-footer. Cejka moved three points ahead with birdies on 13 and 14.

But then it was Cejka's turn to fall back.

He pushed his tee shot on the par-3 16th well into the gallery right of the green, then three-putted for a double bogey that dropped him into a tie with Pampling.

At that point, Waldorf looked as if he might win it after finishing with 26 points nearly an hour earlier.

But Cejka regrouped on the par-five 17th. After Pernice two-putted for birdie to tie for the lead with 27 points, Cejka followed with a two-putt birdie of his own to regain the lead.

Pampling seemed to be in trouble after needing three putts from the fringe for a bogey at 16, but rebounded at 17. He hit a drive down the middle and left his approach pin-high for the clinching putt.

It was a similar outcome to 2001, when no one mounted much of a charge and Pernice won with a one-point final round.

''Normally, it's just one or two guys who make a run on Sunday, and today nobody did it,'' Cejka said.

As for DiMarco, he never seemed to recover from his disastrous third round.

Starting off with 29 points, he made the turn with just 24 after bogeys on Nos. 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9, after hitting into the water right of the fairway for the second straight day.

DiMarco dropped seven points after 14 points in the opening round and 17 points in the second.

DiMarco at least picked up some valuable Ryder Cup points. A tie for sixth place moved him from 19th in the standings to 15th.

LPGA Tour

SYLVANIA, Ohio Meg Mallon birdied three of the last four holes, including a 10-footer at the 18th, for a one-stroke victory over Karen Stupples and defending champion Se Ri Pak at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

Mallon overcame a four-stroke deficit on the final six holes to move past Stupples, closing with a 3-under 68 for a 7-under 277 to win her third event of the year. She also won the U.S. Women's Open and Canadian Open last month.

Stupples and Pak narrowly missed birdie putts at the 18th that would have forced a playoff.

Stupples had a 2-over 73 and Pak closed with a 68 at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

Champions Tour

BLAINE, Minn. Tom Kite made three birdies over the final seven holes in a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory at the 3M Championship and his first Champions Tour victory in 21 months.

One week after losing the lead on the final four holes at the U.S. Senior Open, Kite moved ahead at No. 13 and secured the win by rolling a 60-foot putt within two feet and tapping in for birdie at No. 18. He finished at 13-under 203.



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