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Verplank breaks a 12-year drought

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 28, 2000

RENO, Nev. -- Scott Verplank has made it all the way back from the elbow problems that nearly ended his PGA Tour career.

Verplank won for the first time in 12 years Sunday, holing an 8-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole of a playoff with Jean Van de Velde in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

"I'm thrilled," said Verplank, 36, the former Oklahoma State star who won the 1985 Western Open to become the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour in 31 years. He tied for 15th in the U.S. Open that year but missed most of the 1991-93 seasons with elbow surgery and didn't equal that performance in a major until he tied for 15th at the British Open last year.

"I had great promise coming out of college, winning on the PGA Tour as an amateur. I was a pretty good player, to tell you the truth. It's pretty hard to get hurt, then lose all your confidence and come back and be any good at all."

His last tour win was the 1988 Buick Open. The 12-year span between victories is the fourth-longest PGA drought.

After both players parred the first three playoff holes, Van de Velde drove into the rough on the par-5 17th. He saved par with a 12-foot putt, but Verplank hit his third shot within 8 feet and holed the putt.

Verplank closed with 5-under 67 and Van de Velde, who led Brian Henninger by two heading into the final round, shot 72-275.

Van de Velde played out of a hazard on the 15th hole for bogey, then missed a 12-foot birdie putt that would have won it on the last hole of regulation.

U.S. AMATEUR: It took all day for James Driscoll to make a couple of putts in his match with Jeff Quinney. Because of that, the event at Springfield, N.J., had to wait another day to crown a champion.

Driscoll won the final three holes of regulation to force a playoff before a second threat of bad weather suspended play after 38 holes.

"I just wished we could have finished it tonight," Driscoll said. "Not because I might have had the momentum, but just to get it over with tonight would have been better."

Quinney of Eugene, Ore., and Driscoll of Brookline, Mass., were to resume the title match at the par-3, 193-yard third hole on the Upper Course at Baltusrol Golf Club at 9 a.m. today. Both parred it twice Sunday.

FLEETBOSTON CLASSIC: Larry Nelson, one behind leader Kermit Zarley to begin the final round, pulled away on the back nine to beat Jim Thorpe by four strokes at the Senior PGA event at Concord, Mass. Nelson's 6-under-par 66, bolstered by four late birdies, gave him a 54-hole total of 13-under 203. "I knew somebody would shoot low today," Nelson said. "It was the only way to break out of the pack or we would have had an 11-way playoff.

COMPAQ OPEN: Juli Inkster slipped to 4-over 76 but held on to win at Stockholm, Sweden, by one shot over Sophie Gustafson. Inkster led by a shot after tying the course record Saturday at 67.

SCOTTISH PGA: Pierre Fulke held off Henrik Nystrom to win the European PGA Tour event at Gleneagles, by two shots with 2-under 70.

STATE MID-SENIOR: Doug Ritter of Weston shot par 70 at World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville to win by a shot over David Anthony at 209. Doug LaCrosse of Tampa was the top local finisher, tying for fifth.

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