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Murphy Rides Out Tough Playoff Round

Golf: Long putts, not long drives, produce a championship.


NEWPORT BEACH — Bob Murphy figured the odds were against him if the playoff merry-go-round kept spinning at the Toshiba Senior Classic. How many times could he expect to keep up with Jay Sigel, who was flying drives 40 yards farther down the fairways of the Newport Beach Country Club?

He already had managed to survive the 510-yard, par-five 18th three times during the longest playoff in Senior PGA Tour history, but he was dragging physically and Sigel clearly wasn't fading as fast.

Sigel had just smacked a 316-yard drive on No. 16, the eighth playoff hole of the afternoon--OK, by this time evening--and there was that 18th tee coming into sight as the pair strode up to the 17th green.

"I wasn't going to win if we got back to that par five too many more times," Murphy said. "He has a terrific advantage hitting it as far as he does."

But Murphy added a new kind of distance factor to his game just in time, rolling in an 80-foot putt on the par-three 17th hole to win the tournament. The putt spoiled a great comeback by Sigel, who was six strokes behind Murphy with only eight holes left in regulation.

"I didn't figure I was still in it at that point," said Sigel, who birdied four of the last six holes before the playoff, including the last three in a row. "I just wanted to be on the first page [of the leader board].

"But then down the stretch, Lee [Trevino] pointed out that there was a big logjam [at one point seven players were tied for second at four-under] and all we needed were a couple of birdies each."

Trevino came up short, managing one birdie on the back nine, but Sigel started taking advantage of some of those Tiger Woods-like drives to charge into the playoff.

He hit a nine-iron second shot on the 437-yard, par-four 16th to within six feet and rolled in the putt. He followed Trevino's line and dropped in an 18-footer on the 190-yard, par-three 17th. And he hit a three-wood second shot over the green on No. 18, chipped to within a foot and tapped in for a third consecutive birdie.

He played the 18th almost exactly the same way on two of three times during the playoff--including the first playoff hole--but Murphy managed to match those birdies with great wedge play and solid putting.

Sigel, who did not play on the PGA Tour and didn't turn professional until 1993 after an illustrious amateur career that included winning the Bob Jones Award and the Ben Hogan Award in 1984, finished with a one-under-par 70. He shot 69 Friday and 68 on Saturday. Sunday, he recovered from a shaky start, which included bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3.

"I was hitting the ball OK, and I had my chances in the playoff, but the conditions were pretty tough out there today," he said.

The pin location on 17 favored Murphy, who hits the ball left to right. But Sigel, who said he was going for the middle of the green, had to like his chances when Murphy left his shot 80 feet short.

"I figure a three on that hole is a good score," said Sigel, who was right where he wanted to be, in the middle of the green. "I was just looking to get to 18 again."

It didn't happen, much to the obvious relief of Murphy.

"Murphy made three great putts," Sigel said, "and any time you do that in a playoff, you should win."

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