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Birdie bounce off fiancee gives Byrd win

©Associated Press
October 28, 2002

PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- If the Buick Challenge trophy is not enough to help Jonathan Byrd remember his first PGA victory, he can look at the bruise his errant tee shot left on his fiancee's back.

Byrd's worst swing of the day hit Amanda Talley just under the left shoulder. Instead of going into the trees, the ball bounced into a favorable lie in the rough. What looked like par or worse turned into a two-putt birdie on No. 7.

Talley never saw the ball when Byrd's drive sailed toward the sparse gallery lining the fairway. After she was hit, she walked into the woods so Byrd wouldn't see her and shift his focus.

Byrd won by one stroke Sunday, closing with 9-under 63 to become the 17th first-time winner this year on tour.

"She took one for the team," Byrd said. "She did as much to help me win this tournament as I did."

He did not need any help when it mattered. The 24-year-old rookie made five straight putts on the back nine, two for birdie and all from at least 18 feet.

David Toms (65) had a strong rally and an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff, but it slid over the left edge of the cup. Byrd had 27 birdies and two eagles over four rounds. He finished 27-under 261 and earned $666,000. Phil Mickelson (63) finished third at 265.

"You want it so bad because you always know you can do it," Byrd said. "The greatest thing in the world is to hit great shots when you need them the most."

Along with getting a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, Byrd became the top candidate for rookie of the year, moving to No. 41 on the money list. A strong showing at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic might be enough to get into the top 40 and qualify for the Masters.

Saturday's co-leaders, John Huston of Clearwater and Tim Herron, shot 70-266 and 72-268, respectively.

* * *

NINE BRIDGES CLASSIC: Se Ri Pak struggled more with the pressure of playing in her homeland than with the cold and windy conditions in Jeju Island, South Korea. Pak closed with par 72, beating Carin Koch (73) by six for her fifth win of the year. Pak finished 3-under 213, and Annika Sorenstam's 76 left her nine back, ending her bid to set a record for tournament wins in a year. With nine, Sorenstam was chasing Mickey Wright's 13 in 1963. Pak's 18th victory on the LPGA Tour was worth $225,000, boosting her earnings this year to $1.6-million, second only to Sorenstam's $2.46-million.

SENIOR TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP: Tom Watson, whose five British Open titles are testament to his success in foul weather, shot 5-under 67 in Oklahoma City, beating Gil Morgan (69) by two in the season-ending event for the tour's top 31 money winners.

"The golf course actually played pretty easy," Watson said after his first victory of the season, worth $440,000. He has been a runner-up five times this year. "A lot of these guys think it's kind of cold, but this is just my type of weather."

Morgan finished at 276, three ahead of Bob Gilder (68). Hale Irwin, the leader after two rounds, finished fourth, seven behind Watson but became the first senior to win $3-million in one season.

BUY.COM CHAMPIONSHIP: Third-round leader Patrick Moore was declared the winner of the rain-shortened event in Prattville, Ala., finishing on top of the money list and leading 15 who earned promotions to the PGA Tour.

Moore, who won for the third time this year, birdied three of four for 6-under 66, leaving him 10-under 206 after 54 holes. Half the field failed to finish the final round before heavy rain left the course unplayable.

Moore earned $108,000, moving to first on the money list with $381,965. His third victory of the year earned him a "battlefield promotion" to the PGA Tour, so he is eligible to compete in this week's Southern Farm Bureau Classic. Steven Alker, Mike Heinen and Jeff Klauk were at 208.

MADRID OPEN: Steen Tinning offset four bogeys with eight birdies, shooting 4-under 67 for a one-stoke victory in the European PGA event in Spain. He finished 19-under 265, one ahead of Adam Scott (68), Brian Davis (63) and Andrew Coltart (64) for his second tour victory.

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