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Jones Digs Out of the Sand, Into a Playoff, Wins

February 08, 1988|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

PEBBLE BEACH — It looked as if Steve Jones was folding up like a card table. There were lots of signs.

He spent more time in sand than a shovel. He plunked seven shots into bunkers. He bogeyed two of his last four holes and he missed a makeable birdie on the 18th hole that dropped him out of the lead and into a sudden-death playoff with Bob Tway.

So this is what Bonnie Jones said to her husband: "Look at it this way. You've got another chance."

There are a number of ways to win a golf tournament and Steve Jones picked one of the toughest to get his first. He had the lead. He lost the lead. He got the lead again and then bogeyed himself into a tie.

On the 74th hole, Jones got his other chance. He rolled an uphill 18-footer into the cup on the second playoff hole to beat Tway and win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"I'm thankful it went in," said Jones, a man of few words and a lot of problems to overcome.

He overcame a final round of 74, five bogeys, tricky winds, the jitters, Bernhard Langer and last of all, Tway, who could only stand there and watch Jones pick up the $126,000 first prize.

"Steve made a good putt, a great putt," Tway said.

They got to the green on the second playoff hole in just about the same manner. Tway hit first on the par-3 17th and sent his drive above the hole about 15 feet from the cup. Jones put his ball about three feet farther than that, but below the cup.

Jones stood over the putt for only a second or two and stroked it solidly and confidently and right in.

"I didn't want to take too much time on it," he said.

Tway, whose final-round 68 got him into a playoff and who sank a six-foot par putt on the first extra hole to keep it going, had asked for a ruling to see whether he or Jones was away.

"Obviously, I would have liked to hit first," Tway said.

But Jones had the honors and sank the putt. That left Tway with another pressurized putt to force a third playoff hole. He left his putt slightly to the left.

"It didn't come back to the hole," Tway said. "I wish I hit it a little better, but it never really had a chance to go in."

Tway wasn't sure he was ever going to be in a position to win, either. After his first two rounds, he was 1-over. "I was going out the third day to try and make the cut," he said.

He made the playoff instead. It took a sand wedge on the 18th hole that stopped two inches from the cup to get him there. Tway's birdie putt put him 8-under for the tournament.

While Tway moved up in the field, so did Greg Norman, whose final-round 66 vaulted him into third place at 281, one stroke behind Tway and Jones.

Langer faltered to a 73 and finished in a four-way tie for fourth, two shots off the pace, although he had a two-stroke lead on the field after seven holes.

"At that point, it looked like he would run away and hide," Tway said. "No one else was close."

But Langer shot 39 on the back nine and dropped out of contention. Craig Stadler managed only a 73 and he shot himself out of it, too.

That left it up to Jones. He could either win it or lose it, and Jones played as though he couldn't make up his mind.

Jones birdied the 13th hole with a 22-footer and his lead was up to three shots. It went down to one when Jones bogeyed No. 15 after landing in a bunker and Tway birdied 18. It was gone when Jones bogeyed No. 17 after he found another bunker.

Tway stood off to one side of the 18th green waiting for Jones to finish. Hitting a good drive was on Jones' mind, and with good reason. He lost the Heritage last year when his tee shot on 18 went out of bounds.

Jones didn't hit a great drive. The ball went slightly to the right.

"But it stayed in bounds, so I was happy," he said.

Jones became unhappy when he missed a 10-foot putt that would have won it for him, but Bonnie's advice turned him around.

On the day when he won his first tournament in five years as a pro, there were many mood swings for Jones. Langer, who has a bad back, and Jones, who doesn't, were stretching their backs waiting to tee off on the second hole when Langer said something to Jones.

"He said 'My back is starting to tighten up.' I said 'Mine is getting tight, too, and mine doesn't even hurt,' " Jones said.

Playing in the final group was a little intimidating, Jones said, but he made no major goofs along the way except for one. He used an 8-iron instead of a 7-iron from 138 yards away on the 15th hole and the wind blew it down into a bunker.

But by then, Jones thought he had some momentum. The key hole for him was No. 12 where he came out of a bunker and sank an 18-foot putt to save par.

"The momentum was in my hands," he said. "When you have a hot putter, it makes up for a lot of bad swings."

The best putt Jones made all day was the winning one on the second playoff hole. He read a small break uphill. "It broke with about four inches to go and stayed there," said Jones. "And it went in."

Jones plans to be in some water today, snorkeling on the island of Oahu. After spending so much time in the sand Sunday, it should be a nice change of pace.

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