Playoff ends on 176-yard shot

Originally Published: March 7, 2004
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Craig Parry flipped his 6-iron across the 18th fairway, kicked his leg as high as he could and then swung his ``Popeye'' forearm through the air.

His celebration was as perfect as his shot.

Parry holed out from 176 yards to beat Scott Verplank on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Ford Championship at Doral. His ball landed 8 feet in front of the pin, bounced twice and then rolled in for eagle on the par-4 finishing hole.

Parry never saw it drop. He didn't need to, either.

The 38-year-old Australian realized the ball was in the cup by the reaction of the packed gallery surrounding the green.

"It's amazing," said Parry, nicknamed "Popeye" because of his bulging forearms. "I probably won't be able to put into words what actually happened."

His eagle came on the Blue Monster's signature hole -- the toughest on tour this year. The hole surrendered just nine birdies in the final round and 31 in the tournament.

Parry made it look easy.

His 298-yard drive landed in the center of the fairway. Verplank, who shot a bogey-free 67 in the final round to send it to extra holes, hit his tee shot in the right rough. His second shot was rolling toward a bunker when it turned left and stopped on the edge of the green.

"I was pretty proud of it until his ball rolled in," Verplank said.

Verplank was walking to the green when he saw Parry's ball fall into the cup. He smiled, handed his putter back to his caddie and then walked over to congratulate Parry on his second PGA Tour victory.

"I'm walking up, watching, it looks good, looks real good, looks damn good, and it goes in," Verplank said. "I wasn't supposed to win. What else is there to say? He hit a great golf shot. Now, it's obviously lucky it goes in. Great shots sometimes end up being unbelievable shots, and that one did."

Parry's eagle was reminiscent of two shots involving Greg Norman in 1990. Norman eagled the first playoff hole at Doral in 1990, the par-5 first, to beat Paul Azinger, Mark Calcavecchia and Tim Simpson. Three weeks later at Bay Hill, rookie Robert Gamez beat Norman on the final hole at the Nestle Invitational when he made eagle with a 7-iron from 176 yards.

It also was the second playoff at Doral in as many years. Scott Hoch beat Jim Furyk on the third playoff hole last year.

Parry closed with a 68 to match Verplank at 17-under 271. Retief Goosen (66) was one shot back in third, and Joe Durant was fourth.

David Toms, making his third start since hand surgery in December, missed a 5-foot putt on No. 18 that dropped him into a four-way tie for fifth with 46-year-old Bernhard Langer, 41-year-old Gene Sauers and K.J. Choi.

Parry started the final round 13 under, one shot ahead of Verplank and Gene Sauers. He moved to 17 under with birdies on four of his first eight holes.

Verplank made three birdies on the back to force extra holes. His toughest shot may have been a 6-foot putt on 18 to remain 17 under.

"I hung in there pretty well," said Verplank, who has rejuvenated his career after three elbow surgeries and a 12-year span without a tour victory.

Parry won on the PGA Tour for the first time since the 2002 NEC Invitational. His victory earned him $900,000 and a Ford GT Supercar, which at $140,000, is the most expensive car given away on tour.

"I'm not actually a car man. I'm a boat man," he said. "I guess I better turn into a car man."

Parry's week may have ended with a perfect shot, but it began with more errors than he cares to remember.

He woke up late Thursday because of jet-lag, threw on mismatched clothes and barely made his tee time to avoid disqualification. He used several swings to get loose and was 1 over par after nine holes.

"I didn't think there was any chance in the world I would be sitting here and talking about winning," he said.

Phil Mickelson, who started the day two shots behind Parry, shot a 2-over 74 to match his worst round of the year and tie for 24th. He also shot a 74 in the first round in the Buick Invitational. ... Parry was one of just 14 players who made par or better on No. 18 in each of the four rounds. ... Goosen has shot par or better in his last 29 rounds on the PGA Tour.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press