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 year.
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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