RANCHO MIRAGE — Three golfers finished at 3-under-par 69 Monday at Mission Hills, but only one arrived there by playing 18 consistent holes, and he walked away the winner.
Indio's Matt Curci would have finished at 4-under had he not put his second shot into a well on 18. He saved bogey but then double-bogeyed the first hole of a playoff and was out.
Defending champion Bob May of Los Altos would have finished at 4-under had he not missed a three-foot par putt on 17. He birdied 18 to finish at 69, but a subsequent par on 17 during the playoff was not good enough.
Instead, it was Jeff Manson of Long Beach Millikan who prevailed. Manson's 69 did not include a single bogey, and his playoff performance earned him the Southern Section individual golf title. He parred the first playoff hole, 16, then sank a 13-foot birdie putt on 17 to defeat May, who missed an 18-footer.
Manson fashioned his 69 with only 28 putts and had three birdies.
"It's nothing too special," said Manson, a junior and the Moore League champion. "I felt good and just played consistently."
Everything about May's game was consistent except his putting. May came up short on several occasions, and his 3-footer at 17 rounded the cup."
"I couldn't putt today," said May, who out-drove, by nearly 20 yards, the field on hole 15, according to a marshall posted there. "My game felt good, but I wasn't hitting the putts."
Curci, wearing stereo headphones and listening to Christian music to "smooth my swing," three-putted on the first playoff hole and was eliminated. Before the playoff, he called the 69 his best-ever round.
The top 22 finishers advance to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern California Golf Assn. championships June 8 at North Ranch, where the top four teams from the Southern Section also will compete.
May, the most successful prep golfer of the past three years, will not advance, choosing instead to try to qualify for the U.S. Open the next day at the San Francisco Golf Club.