Gore wins in fourth start after PGA Tour promotion

FARMINGTON, Pa. -- Jason Gore stood up to an excellent
late-season field, and to the very pressure that wilted him three
months ago at the U.S. Open. Most of all, he stood up to Sunday.
Gore, whose last-day unraveling already is part of Open lore,
held off the 84 Lumber Classic field with big drives and steely
nerves to win on the PGA Tour barely a month after being stuck in
golf's minor leagues.
Gore's four-stroke lead with five holes to play was down to one
over runner-up Carlos Franco by No. 18, but Gore landed his
approach shot on the 468-yard par-4 on the lower fringe of the
green. With a playoff looming if he didn't get up and down, Gore
deftly lagged his putt from 91½ feet to within 22 inches and tapped
in for a final-round 2-under 70 and the Tour victory he once
thought might never come.
"I hit the best putt of my life," he said. "What made it
easier is the putt was so hard -- I had to go up and down two
elephants and over the windmill. It worked out, luckily."
His 14-under 274 was three shots better than third-place
finisher Ben Crane (67).
"It's pretty incredible," said Gore, who played with a
sponsor's exemption. "Around May-ish I was wondering if I could
get formula for my child, if I was going to make a house payment,
and now look. They just handed me a check for $792,000. It's
amazing where a little perseverance and grit and maybe a little
ignorance can take you."
Gore never finished higher than 18th during two previous stays
on the PGA Tour, in 2001 and 2003, and had won only $40,399 on that
tour this year. Now, he joins Paul Stankowski (1996) as the only
winners on the developmental Nationwide and PGA tours in the same
The portly, big-swinging Gore is the first to do so after
earning the automatic in-season promotion that goes to any
three-time Nationwide winner.
Now, all those public course duffers who think they could make
the leap to golf's big leagues have a new hero to go with John
Daly. Gore, 31, looks as much like a spectator as he does a pro,
and his caddy wears not a Nike or a Titleist cap, but one plugging
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
Jason Gore, this one's on you. And this wasn't an ordinary
post-majors win, either, with most of the big names long since
gone. The field for the $4.4 million event was unusually strong
with four of the top six money winners, including Phil Mickelson
and 2004 champion Vijay Singh.
Gore opened a two-shot lead with a 5-under 67 Saturday at the
7,416-yard Mystic Rock course, then never trailed on a Sunday that
was a polar opposite of the U.S. Open, when he had a 14-over 84
while playing in the final group.
Franco, playing one group ahead of him Sunday, tied him briefly
with a birdie on the par-5 No. 8, but Gore answered minutes later
with his eagle on the same hole after a sand wedge from the fairway
to 12 feet.
"He wasn't nervous because he's won three times on the
Nationwide Tour," said Franco, who had a final-round 69.
Yes, he was. Gore said the pressure was much worse than at the
U.S. Open.
"It was pretty brutal," he said. "It was a lot more than I
expected. ... I never really played well in a PGA Tour event.
Before, I never really had anything to lose and now I had something
to prove."
That Gore seemed at home at a tournament where big hitters own
an advantage and Daly is the unofficial host is no coincidence.
Gore's mother, Kathy, grew up in Pittsburgh and moved back there
four years ago after Jason's father died. Gore first played the
game during a summertime shagging balls and driving golf carts at
the public Manor Valley course, a suburban Pittsburgh course where
his late uncle, John Kovach, was the pro.
And Gore began getting his game together not far from Pittsburgh
following his final-round 14-over 84 at the U.S. Open. A month
later, he won the Nationwide Tour event in nearby Bridgeport,
W.Va., the first of three consecutive wins.
In that forgettable U.S. Open round, he bogeyed more than half
the holes, with three double bogeys and a triple. On this much
different Sunday, he didn't have a bogey until the par-4 No. 14,
when the four-stroke edge was cut to three shots. Franco, who had
only two bogeys in four rounds, got to within a stroke with a
birdie on No. 16, and Gore bogeyed the par-3 17th by missing an
8-footer for par, setting up the decisive 18th hole.

Gore already had a PGA Tour exemption through 2006 through
his Nationwide wins; winning extends it through 2007. ... Franco is
a four-time Tour winner, but had only one previous top 10 finish in
22 events this year. ... Gore, who missed the cut at the Canadian
Open the week before, is the ninth first-time winner on the PGA
Tour this year. ... He also is the first to win on a sponsor's
exemption since Adam Scott at the 2003 Deutsche Bank. ... Gore's
paycheck almost doubled his previous career Tour winnings. ...
Harrison Frazar went from 2-over to 6-under with an 8-under 64, the
best round of the tournament. ... Chris DiMarco tied for fifth to
finish in the top five for the third time in the five-year event.
He won in 2000 and tied for third last year.