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No. 6 is Mattiace's undoing

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 23, 2000


PALM HARBOR -- If pros could take a mulligan, Len Mattiace would have hit another drive on the Copperhead course's par-4 sixth hole.

Mattiace was 9-under par, two shots behind leader Carl Paulson. The hole called for a fade to hold the ball on the sloping fairway. But Mattiace pulled the drive into trees on the left. After a series of misadventures, Mattiace ended up with triple-bogey 7 and was five strokes back.

"I felt like I got a couple bad breaks on the hole," said Mattiace, who shot par 71 and finished tied for third with Frank Lickliter at 9-under 275.

"Where the ball ended up first was behind a big stick. I couldn't get the club on the ball, so it shot right up in the air. It could've gone through into the fairway, but it hit the limb and bounced back in the trees next to a root. I almost had to top it, and the ball still didn't advance through the trees. I did well to make 7. One bad drive and that's what happens."

Mattiace regrouped and shot 3 under the rest of the way. But getting over the triple bogey, which essentially ended his run for his first PGA Tour win, wasn't easy.

"It was very hard to get up there and focus the next couple of holes," he said. "I felt like I was doing well. Everything was flowing. Although I missed some birdies, I felt like I was right in there.

"(The triple bogey) just whipped me out."

SCHOOL IS OUT: Valrico's Michael Bradley, who finished in a tie for 61st at 4 over, said he will not go to qualifying school to try to earn a full exemption for the tour next season.

Bradley, 34, earned a two-year exemption when he won the 1998 Doral Open. But he is 169th on the money list and likely will not finish in the top 125 with two official tournaments left. He is exempt for about 15 tournaments next season, and he said that is enough.

"If I'm going to continue playing the way I'm playing, then I don't want to play 30 events per year," Bradley said. "I'm not having any fun. I have no interest in it."

SLOW STARTER: Joe Durant started the season by missing five straight cuts. Since then he has steadily improved.

Durant continued his solid play Sunday with 5-under 66. He finished fifth at 8 under and made the top 10 for the second straight week. Durant said he plans to play in the National Car Rental Golf Classic, which begins Thursday at Lake Buena Vista, then take some needed time off.

"I start slow anyway," Durant said. "I never really get cranked up until May or June. This year it happened to take a little longer than expected.

"I think it's because I've done too much in November and December. So come January, I'm flat. I don't really feel like playing. I'm not going to play any tournaments between the end of (this week's) and Tucson (in January)."

GLOWING REVIEW: Brad Faxon, who made a move from tied for 36th to tied for sixth with 6-under 65, had nothing but praise for the course at the Westin Innisbrook Resort.

"I love this course," Faxon said. "To me, it's one of the best courses we play all year long.

"The guys that have played here before in the mixed tournament (JCPenny Classic) know how good this course is. With it being in October, it's a little earlier, and it's in better shape. Then I think it's a credit to the tournament to get guys like Justin Leonard and Fred Couples here. They don't have to be here. I give it an A-plus."

CHIP INS: Playing by himself in the first group, Jay Hass completed his round in 1 hour, 59 minutes. He shot 73 and was done by 9:45 a.m.. ... Mark Brooks withdrew before Sunday's round because of back problems. Brooks was tied for 50th at 7 over. ... Tommy Armour III recorded an eagle on the 420-yard par-4 seventh hole, the only eagle on the front nine in the tournament.

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