Allenby finds second wind, win

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2001

LIGONIER, Pa. -- Once Robert Allenby found his focus, he never lost his lead.

Distraught by the terrorist attacks two weeks ago, the 30-year-old Aussie kept glued to the television when he wasn't on the golf course. He teed it up Thursday in the Pennsylvania Classic and felt like he was going through the motions.

''Golf didn't seem important. It still doesn't,'' he said after cruising to a three-stroke victory at Laurel Valley. ''My mind is still on what happened last Tuesday and I said, 'For me to go on this week, I've got to focus on what I'm here to do.' And that's what I did.''

Best known for being unbeaten in playoffs, Allenby eliminated the suspense Sunday.

He closed with a 4-under 68, never let anyone within three strokes of the lead and put away the last of his challengers with three straight birdies followed by two great par saves.

Allenby finished at 19-under 269 to win by three shots over Larry Mize and hometown favorite Rocco Mediate.

''He was tremendous,'' Mediate said. ''This week, he was good at everything.''

It was Allenby's second PGA Tour victory this year and fourth of his career, but the first that didn't require a playoff. He is 7-0 worldwide when he has to go extra holes.

There was no chance of that this week.

Allenby got his mind back on golf after celebrating his son's second birthday on Thursday night, a happy time that made him appreciate his family in light of the tragedy.

From there on, he was unstoppable -- a round of 65 in which his longest birdie putt was 8 feet, followed by a 66 that he finished up Sunday morning to build a three-stroke lead.

''A win is a win. You take it any way you can,'' Allenby said. ''But this was the right thing for me. To win with the lead for the last three days, I haven't done that for a while and it feels great.''

It put him in great company.

Allenby joined Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players with at least two victories in each of the past two years. The $594,000 first-place check pushed him over $2 million for the year.

While Allenby had it locked up all along, the final round proved to be a boost for Mize.

The former Masters champion was 199th on the money list and in jeopardy of losing his PGA Tour card for the first time in 20 years. The deadline to enter qualifying school was Wednesday, and Mize decided not to apply.

''The philosophy I'm taking at the end of the year is I'm believing in myself and believing I'm going to make the top 125'' on the money list, he said.

Mize, who had not finished higher than 35th all year, made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 65. He earned $290,000 and moved up to 111th on the money list, in good position to keep his card.

''This was a huge step,'' he said.

Kevin Sutherland had a 68 and finished fourth at 273, while Nick Price (68) was another stroke back.

The PGA Tour resumed after a week off because of the terrorist attacks, putting American flags on all 18 pins and inside the tee markers.

Allenby stuck a lapel pin in his visor that combined flags from the United States and Australia. He got it two days before the attacks while attending a party held by the Australian ambassador and attended by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

There were a few light moments Sunday, especially when Allenby kept hitting great shots and Mediate kept staring at him in mock disbelief.

Mediate reached the 537-yard closing hole in two shots with a 2-iron over the water, and the gallery -- several from his hometown 20 miles away -- gave him a rousing ovation. Mediate joked to Allenby, ''The heck with you, they like me better!''

Mediate had a chance to get within one stroke on No. 3 with a 35-foot eagle that was right on line. Instead, it caught the left lip and horseshoed around the hole, and Allenby sank a 12-foot birdie putt to keep his three-stroke margin.

Both made bogey on the par-3 8th, and then Allenby turned it on. He hit his approach into 3 feet for birdie on No. 9, holed a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 10 and then reached the 605-yard 11th with his second shot for a two-putt birdie.

All Mediate could do was try to stay with him, but that wasn't enough.

The crowd quietly rooted against the Aussie, whispering under its breath for his ball to find trouble. It hardly ever did.

Allenby missed only 10 greens all week, and could have really blitzed the field had he made his share of 10-foot birdie putts. He rarely was any farther from the hole.

''I could have putted better,'' he said with a weak smile, realizing this no time to find fault with his game. He was the winner, this time sparing himself the dramatics.

Divots: Cameron Beckman had a 73 but still tied for 10th, matching his best career finish on the PGA Tour. He still earned $89,100, which should be enough for him to keep his card for the 2002 season. Beckman has made it through Q-school each of the past three years, the longest active streak on tour. ... One day after he had an 82, John Daly had six birdies in a 70. He finished 68th out of 71 players. ... Glen Hnatiuk of Canada had a 69 and finished ninth for his first top-10 finish of the year. ... The tournament was sponsored by Marconi. It will return to the Philadelphia area next year.



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