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Forsman gets relief and playoff victory

After a ruling helps him save par on the 18th hole, he defeats Pooley

March 16, 2009|James Wagner

The ball screamed off the club, away from the pin. Low and right.

And worse, nearly out of bounds.

"I wanted to almost lay up," Dan Forsman explained.

He didn't.

That second shot on the 18th hole in regulation sailed and settled beyond the electronic scoreboard to the far right of the green, in between the screen lining the driving range and a green spectator railing at Valencia Country Club.

But thank goodness for "temporary immovable obstructions," as the rule book describes them.

That railing, the one intended to constrain curious fans, saved Forsman's Sunday.

It set up the next shot, a wedge shot to within about 20 feet of the pin, miraculous given the ball's original position. ("It just came out beautiful," he later said.)

He then two-putted for par to set up an eventual one-hole playoff with Don Pooley, which led to Forsman's win at the AT&T Champions Classic, his first on the Champions Tour.

"That was pretty amazing," said Forsman, who before Sunday had won only $289,035 in 11 events since turning 50 last July but added $240,000 with the victory.

After Forsman's "nightmarish" second shot on the par-five 18th hole, officials measured and found that his ball was indeed in bounds by a fraction, contrary to what he had originally been told.

So Forsman was given "relief," meaning he was allowed to drop the ball close by but away from the obstructing railing.

Forsman's recovery gave him a six-under-par 66 for an 11-under 205 total after 54 holes. Pooley, who had taken the outright lead by the 11th hole, lipped out a six-foot birdie that would have given him the victory.

"I thought I won right there," said Pooley, describing that putt that didn't break.

Pooley was again plagued by a short missed putt on No. 18 in the playoff, this one more costly. Shortly after Forsman rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt, Pooley's five-footer curled around the edge of the hole.

Forsman didn't emerge among the leaders until the 15th hole, when he birdied his second consecutive hole to get to 10 under and a shot behind Pooley, who shot a 70.

Forsman had started the day six strokes behind leader Joey Sindelar after rounds of 72 and 67.

Down the stretch, as Sindelar slowly fell apart, other contending players sent a handful of shots into duck-filled waters, pesky bunkers or, generally, away from the fairways.

Third-place finisher Jay Haas, who fell victim to the bunker sands and a costly bogey on 17, didn't dub them bizarre shots. "It's just golf," he said.

Forsman was a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, the last coming in 2002. The stress of the "regular tour" -- worrying about cuts, continually improving opponents and longer golf courses -- made people remark that Forsman "wasn't himself."

But Sunday, Forsman said he was calmer than he'd ever been.

Forsman, who grew up in the Bay Area, strutted with his win.

He pumped his fist after his birdie putt in the playoff.

And he repeatedly hugged his wife, Trudy.

"I am way more relaxed," he said.


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