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Purtzer makes not-so-sudden impact to win

It takes four extra holes, but he beats Roberts for the title in Champions Tour event at Valencia.

March 19, 2007|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

Tom Purtzer defeated Loren Roberts with a birdie on the fourth hole of sudden death Sunday to win his second AT&T Champions Classic at the Valencia Country Club.

It was the longest playoff in the 18-year history of the 50-and-over Champions Tour event, and came after the pair finished three rounds tied at 10 under par, one shot ahead of David Eger.

The tournament's format called for Purtzer and Roberts to repeatedly play the par-five 18th hole until a winner was decided. Each made three pars until Purtzer, 55, sank a 17-foot putt to capture the win and $240,000.

"You don't ever know if you're ever going to win another one, so I think that's why it's special," said Purtzer, who also won at Valencia in 2003.

As he approached the 18th hole for the fifth time Sunday, "I told my caddie, 'We've got to make one birdie on this hole' " in sudden death, Purtzer said.

Purtzer had birdied 18 earlier in regulation to reach the playoff and shoot a four-under 68, and he credited much of the scoring to a putting lesson he received from fellow pro Dave Stockton on Wednesday.

Roberts, a 51-year-old San Luis Obispo native, shot a three-under 69 and nearly won the tournament on the second playoff hole when his 25-foot birdie putt hit the cup but spun out.

"It was a long day," said Roberts, who struggled with an aching back. "I was just happy to even get in a playoff. I'm just sorry I couldn't get some of those putts in before [Purtzer] did."

Noticeably absent from the playoff was Hale Irwin, who led the first two rounds but couldn't mount anything resembling a charge Sunday.

Irwin, the leading Champions Tour winner with 45 victories, shot a one-over 73 to finish at eight under with five other players, two behind Purtzer and Roberts.

"I played 27 good holes and 27 not-so-good holes," said Irwin, 61, who tied a tournament course record with a 64 Friday followed by a second-round 71. "I just didn't do what I needed to do. My putting was just horrible."

That surprised Purtzer. "When Hale's leading, he rarely, rarely, rarely, rarely comes back to the field," he said.

Despite his lackluster play, Irwin was still in contention until he made double-bogey on the par-four 17th. He rebounded with a birdie on 18, but it was too late.

The group at eight under also included 2005 tournament winner Des Smyth, Tom Jenkins, Jim Thorpe, Andy Bean and Joe Ozaki, who shot a five-under 67.

They were part of a traffic jam that crowded the leaderboard all day until Purtzer and Roberts pulled ahead.

Nine players either led or shared the lead, and more than 20 players -- a quarter of the field -- were within four shots of the lead during the round.

For Roberts, it was his 35th consecutive round of par or better, a record on the Champions Tour.

Defending champion Tom Kite shot 70 to finish at four under for the tournament.

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