SNOQUALMIE, Wash. -- Seven players came walking up the 18th
fairway, a sight never seen before on a major professional golf
tour -- let alone most local municipal golf courses.
Typically, seven-man playoffs are reserved for settling bets at
local clubs, not the Champions Tour.
"We've done it back home, but we all had a few beers," R.W. Eaks said about Sunday's record playoff at the Boeing Classic.
"That was fun."
Denis Watson eventually ended the long afternoon, capping a wild
finish that started at the turn by making an 18-foot putt for eagle
on the second playoff hole to win his second Champions Tour event
of the season.
Watson edged Eaks and Craig Stadler on the second playoff hole -- the third time the trio had played the 18th hole in an hour. Watson
gave an emphatic fist pump as the ball dropped, ending the largest
playoff in Champions Tour history.
Watson, who won the Senior PGA Championship in May, watched a
chance to win the tournament in regulation slip away with an errant
tee shot on No. 17 that found a lake fronting the par-3. That
dropped Watson back to 9-under par and into a swarm of other
golfers who posted the same number.
"The only thing you like about being in that playoff is when
you come out on top," Watson said.
The previous Champions Tour playoff record was five players,
which happened twice. The PGA Tour record is six players.
The seven players who finished at 9 under for the tournament all
reached the mark in various ways. Watson, Eaks and Gil Morgan all
missed a chance at birdie on the 18th. Stadler made birdie on the
final two holes to climb into the mix. Joe Ozaki also birdied No.
18 to reach 9 under.
David Eger -- the winner here in the first event two years ago -- posted the low round of 6-under 66, then had to sit by with an
unopened beer next to him, watching as the lead regularly changed
over the final few holes.
"It felt like a shootout or something," Eaks said.
To start the playoff, all seven went off the 18th tee in the
same group, but only Morgan was in position to reach to the green
in two. His 5-wood was struck well, but the ball was slightly left
of the flag and landed in the bunker next to the green.
Eaks hit a perfect pitch with his third shot to 18 inches,
putting pressure on the others. Watson hit his wedge over the green
onto the fringe, but chipped in from 23 feet, forcing others to
make birdie to stay in the playoff.
Only Eaks and Stadler were able to match. Stadler confidently
sunk his 22-foot putt, while Eaks patiently waited before tapping
in his birdie putt.
"I was missing putts all day and then I made two in a row to
get into the playoff," said Stadler, who hasn't won on the tour
since 2004. "I was just happy to be there."
Morgan and Eger missed 12-foot birdie putts, while Ozaki's shot
out of the green-side bunker hit the edge of the cup but rolled
Watson, Eaks and Stadler went back and played 18 again. All
three reached the green in two, but Watson kept the playoff from
continuing. Eaks missed a 12-footer and Stadler's long eagle putt
from the front of the green was just short.
"It's tough to win. The emotions that grab a hold of you,"
Watson said. "People who haven't done it don't understand it."
Ray Stewart, who led after two rounds, is still in that
Stewart, the sentimental favorite from Abbotsford, British
Columbia, played a solid first two rounds, but was shaky on the
front nine. He still held the lead at the turn, but fell apart on
Nos. 15 and 17. Playing in the final group and trailing Watson by
one, Stewart four-putted the 15th green for double bogey. He
astonishingly rebounded to birdie the 16th, but then matched Watson
and hit his tee shot on No. 17 -- a 5-iron -- into the water.
"I wasn't even aiming at the pin," Stewart said.
Stewart birdied the final hole, but finished one shot out of the
playoff. He was trying to become the first Monday qualifier in
Champions Tour history to win a tournament wire-to-wire. Only 10
qualifiers have ever won a tour event, most recent was Pete Oakley
at the 2004 Senior British Open.
"I feel like quitting. Probably not going to," Stewart said.
Jerry Pate also missed the playoff by a shot after missing a
2-foot par putt on No. 18.