Couples birdies last hole to win Par-3 Shootout

Updated: June 27, 2006, 6:42 PM ET
Associated Press

GAYLORD, Mich. -- Who needs Phil for thrills? Certainly not Fred Couples.

Fans who might have been disappointed when Phil Mickelson pulled out of the Par-3 Shootout got plenty of drama Tuesday when Couples birdied the last hole -- worth $200,000 -- to win the two-day, skins-type event with $300,000.

It was the third win in five tries in the competition for Couples, making him the only multiple winner in the eight years the event has been played. He hiked his earnings to $1.12 million.

"I grew up on a par-3 course: Jefferson Park in Seattle," Couples said. "This is my kind of place."

Mickelson, who withdrew after his meltdown in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, earned $960,000 in the seven previous events at Treetops Resort. Lee Trevino is the event's top money-winner with $1.39 million. Trevino also is the only player to collect the $1 million bonus for a hole-in-one, making an ace on No. 7 in 2001.

"There were a lot of misreads out there," said Craig Stadler, who tied Chris DiMarco for second with $110,000. "Fred made the right putt at the right time."

Defending champ Andy North, who failed to win a skin during the 18 holes, finished a distant fourth with $20,000.

"Fred has the right attitude for events like this," North said. "He's made so much money at events where they don't consider (earnings) official money. But, trust me, he does."

Every hole on the nine-hole layout in the northern Lower Peninsula is a par-3. Winning a hole is worth $20,000 providing the player validates by either winning or tying the next hole. If the hole is not won, the money carries over to the following hole. Closest to the pin earns a $10,000 bonus.

It was all carry-overs during the final round.

Stadler's attempt to validate a ninth hole birdie from the day before went amiss when he flew the green with his tee shot on the 10th and settled for bogey while DiMarco and North tied with pars.

Stadler responded with a birdie from 25 feet on No. 11, but Couples matched it from inside 8 feet. The next two holes also ended in ties.

Couples birdied No. 14, but Stadler, paying him back for the 11th, also birdied.

The next three holes also ended in ties, with the rollovers making the 18th worth $200,000. And a win at the 18th didn't have to be validated.

Couples hit a 9-iron 4 feet, 9 inches from the pin, about 5 feet inside North. DiMarco and Stadler, both farther away, each made par, setting up a showdown between North and Couples. North missed his putt, then Couples rolled his in for the win.

"I enjoy these things," Couples said. "It's just fun. And, it's a lot easier to win a two-day event than a four-day event."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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