Allenby storms to win in Riviera playoff

Associated Press
Sunday, February 25

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Robert Allenby had experienced plenty of playoffs, but nothing quite like this -- six guys in the largest playoff in PGA Tour history, facing one of golf's toughest closing holes in a cold, raw rain.

What it means
The West Coast swing had already been a wild adventure, so it was only fitting to cap it with another wacky adventure.

Robert Allenby's victory ended the nine-tournament swing with nine different winners, and none of them named Tiger Woods. With 20 percent of the season complete, the only sure thing is there are no sure things this year on the PGA Tour.

Allenby proved one more time that while he may be shaky in regulation, he's deadly in sudden death. The win gives him three playoff victories in 10 months on the PGA Tour, and he's a perfect 7-0 worldwide for his career.

After weeks of watching scoring records, Riviera Country Club was the winner this week. Take a long, narrow course, add some wind and cold, and suddenly par-4s become a challenge and par-5s are not eagle opportunities.

The conditions also showed how putting on pristine greens have made a difference in scoring this year. With wet, sloppy greens, birdies were not dropping for anyone on the weekend.

Despite his final-round collapse, Davis Love III leaves the West Coast with his head held high. He had a first, second, eighth and 10th among his five starts, and has won more than $1.2 million. His game and confidence are sharp, putting him on track for a fine performance at Augusta in just six weeks.

Bob Tway also leaves California with a strong start. Still winless since 1995, the former PGA champion had a second, third and fourth on the West Coast swing.

Woods, meanwhile, is battling his own stature as he heads East. The "slump" amounts to five starts with a finish no worse than 13th. Just about everyone on tour would take that record.

-- Greg Robertson
ESPN Golf Online

The 29-year old knew exactly what it would take to end it quickly: Perfection.

After wiping raindrops from his glasses and gripping down on a 3-wood, Allenby added another chapter to storied Riviera Country Club with an approach into 5 feet to win the Nissan Open on Sunday, keeping him perfect in playoffs.

"To be able to pull it off in those conditions -- pouring rain, five guys on your heels -- that's going to be a shot that stays in my memory bank a long time," Allenby said. "Funny enough, I'm the only one who always comes up with that shot."

Allenby is 7-0 in playoffs worldwide, and all three of his PGA Tour victories have gone extra holes.

None was quite like this.

Six players finished at 8-under 276, some of them at least an hour before Davis Love III stumbled badly on the closing holes at Riviera Country Club, and before Allenby and Jeff Sluman each bogeyed the 18th to fall back into a share of the lead.

The playoff was the largest since six players went extra holes in the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic, but that tournament was only 36 holes because of rain.

"There's more pressure with six guys," said Allenby, who closed with a 1-under 70. "Five other guys could play some awesome shots. You always have to expect the unexpected."

Not even Allenby expected a birdie, not on a 451-yard hole that was playing longer because of the rain that soaked Riviera. The average score was 4.544 in the final round, and only Doug Barron had made birdie.

Until Allenby hit the perfect shot at the perfect moment.

Caught between a 2-iron and a 3-wood from about 225 yards, Allenby choked up on his fairway metal. Water splashed on contact, the ball tracking right at the flag and landing just over a hump on the green.

"I was trying to hit the perfect shot, and I came up with it," Allenby said.

Bob Tway was the only other player to reach the 18th green in two in the playoff, but his 35-footer stopped a foot short.

The other contenders were Sluman, Dennis Paulson, Brandel Chamblee and Toshi Izawa, who was trying to become the first Japanese player to win a PGA Tour event on the mainland.

Allenby won $612,000. A year ago, he defeated Craig Stadler on the fourth playoff hole in the Houston Open, and beat Nick Price on the first playoff hole in the Western Open.

Love was in position to win for the second time in his last three tournaments, clinging to a one-stroke lead until a horrific collapse. He played his last four holes in 4-over and wound up with a 75, missing the playoff by two strokes.

 Dennis Paulson
Dennis Paulson was one of 10 players to have the lead on Sunday and one of six in the playoff.
His only consolation was a $500,000 bonus for winning the West Coast swing, although he didn't bother to stick around for the check presentation.

Tiger Woods played the final hole with his cap turned backwards, but that didn't seem to help with the rain or his luck. He had an even-par 71 and finished in a tie for 13th. Woods has gone eight PGA Tour events without winning, his longest stretch since he went 14 tournaments without a victory from May 1998 to February 1999.

So ends a wild West Coast swing. As the PGA Tour moves across the country to Florida, there have been nine tournaments and nine winners, and rarely a dull moment.

Love started the final round at 10-under with a three-stroke lead, which he figured would feel like an even larger margin because of the cold, raw rain.

It took him only three holes to lose the lead.

In perfect position to reach the 503-yard opening hole in two, Love hit an iron so far over the green that the gallery didn't even bother to scatter. Two holes later, Love bladed a chip 20 feet past the hole and made bogey.

He missed the 236-yard fourth hole long with a 1-iron, but the real shock was missing a 2-foot par putt that knocked him out of the lead.

Love's bad start brought everyone into the hunt.

Ten players had a share of the lead at some point during the round, although only Love and Allenby had the lead to themselves.

Michael Muehr, who had a 63 on Friday, holed out with a wedge from the 10th fairway for eagle to get into the lead at 9-under. He bogeyed the next two holes and disappeared. Chris Perry bogeyed three of his last four holes.

And Corey Pavin, trying to win for the first time in five years, collapsed.

He made bogey on No. 7 when he duck-hooked his drive so badly that it hit a tree and caromed back to the right, stopping about 100 yards in front of him. It took him three shots to reach a greenside bunker on No. 9 -- with a plugged lie, no less -- and he made double-bogey. He went from the front bunker to the back bunker on No. 10 for another bogey.

Still, no one faded as badly as Love.

Leading by one at 10-under, Love went at the pin on No. 15 and paid the price, landing in a bunker and blasting out to 30 feet. After asking officials to sponge off the green, Love three-putted for double-bogey.

On the next hole, he again went into the right bunker and missed a 3-foot par putt that dropped him two strokes behind, and too late to catch up.

  • Because of the rain, players were allowed to lift, clean and place.

  • Woods has gone five straight tournaments without a top-three finish, his longest stretch in two years. He left for Dubai, where he is to receive a reported $2 million appearance fee.

  • Allenby opened with a 73, the highest first-round score by a winner on the PGA Tour this year. He became the first Australian in the 75-year history to win the Nissan Open.
    Nissan Open final-round scores

    Nissan Open top finishers' scorecards

    2001 Nissan Open


    Robert Allenby is happy to win the Nissan Open on the first playoff hole.
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