CROMWELL, Conn. Woody Austin is finally getting a grip on his nerves and it's starting to pay off.
Austin calmly made a 6-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole Sunday to beat Tim Herron at the Buick Championship and earn the first-place prize of $756,000 the largest check in his nine-year PGA Tour career.
''Unfortunately for me, I'm a very nervous individual and it shows on the greens a lot of times. I'm starting to calm down a little bit as far as I'm not having to worry about my job,'' said Austin, who has had exempt status the last two years.
Austin, who used to spend his offseasons as a bank teller, finished 125th on the money list in 2001, just good enough to earn an exemption. In 2002, he had bigger cushion, finishing in the top 50 for the first time since 1996 and earning $1 million for the first time in his career.
''I went for seven years in a row of having to worry about my job every single year, and now for two years in a row, I don't have to,'' he said.
Austin shot a 4-under-par 66 and finished 10 under in regulation, earning his second career victory and first in 274 events. It was his first victory since winning a playoff at the 1995 Buick Open, the same season he was named rookie of the year.
''I feel that deep down I never really showed the true talent that I have,'' Austin said. ''I feel like I'm one of the best players out here and I've never shown it.''
Last year, Austin was second to Davis Love III at Hilton Head Island, S.C., losing on the fourth hole of a playoff for his first top-three finish since 1996.
Austin rallied with five birdies over the first six holes on the back nine Sunday to overtake a wide-open field that included second- and third-round leader Fred Funk, Corey Pavin and Tom Pernice, Jr.
Austin had a chance to win the tournament on the final hole of regulation, but after his drive landed in a divot, he flew his approach about 80 feet past the pin and made a bogey on the 444-yard 18th.
Herron, playing with Austin, bounced back from a double-bogey on the 17th hole by making a 24-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to force the playoff.
The playoff started on the 18th, and Austin quickly atoned with a 345-yard drive and landed his approach just inside 7 feet.
Herron's tee shot landed in the left rough on a slope about 150 yards from the pin, and his approach left him 55 feet from the cup. He ran his birdie try wide right and an official had to measure the distance of both players to determine who was away. Herron, about 6 inches farther away, made his par putt.
Austin wasted little time, rolling in his winning birdie putt. He pumped his fist in the air and hugged his caddie, Brent Henley. After nine years without a win, the 40-year-old Austin thought the day would never come again.
''I'm a little bit pessimistic, I guess, when it comes to my golf game,'' Austin said. ''I certainly wanted to feel vindicated after my victory my rookie year.''
Herron was looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour in five years.
ALOHA, Ore. Craig Stadler closed with four straight birdies in a 5-under-par 67 for a one-shot victory Sunday at the Tradition and his second major on the Champions Tour.
Stadler finished at 13-under 275, a stroke ahead of Jerry Pate (66) and Allen Doyle (71) at Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club. Hometown favorite Peter Jacobsen was one of seven golfers at 11 under.
KUTZTOWN, Pa. Lorena Ochoa birdied three of the last four holes to overcome a five-stroke deficit and win the Wachovia LPGA Classic.
Ochoa finished with a 65 to score a 19-under 269 for her second career win. She took the lead for good when third-round leader Grace Park bogeyed the 15th one of three bogeys by Park on the back nine.
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