Els up to old tricks at Sony
Another Sony Open in Hawaii, another stumble (or was it more of a skip?) into the sunset for Ernie Els.
Els won the PGA Tour's first full-field event for the second straight season, both times failing to shut the door in regulation and in both cases making up for his late gaffes with playoff dramatics.
"A playoff in the Sony -- it's working out fine for me,'' said Els, who shot a 5-under 65 Sunday despite a few hiccups.
He was leading Harrison Frazar by two shots late Sunday as he lined up a 30-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole. Frazar, meanwhile, was in the greenside rough, chipping for par. Els could have locked it up, but he instead watched Frazar hole a gorgeous chip-in for par before three-putting for bogey himself. It was his only three-putt of the week.
Frazar went on to make a big birdie putt at the 17th to tie it at 17-under, and both made birdies on the 18th (Els made a clutch 10-footer) to force extra holes.
On the first playoff hole (again the 18th), Els had a clear edge: He was sitting in the short grass with a clear shot at the green while Frazar was in a fairway bunker. Els sailed the putting surface with his approach and ended up in the stands (he appeared to have been bothered during the swing). After a free drop, he went on to make par. Frazar did the same, happy to have gotten away with his mistake off the tee.
Frazar -- who dropped to 0-for-161 on the PGA Tour despite a heroic effort -- only delayed his fate. Two holes later on the par-3 11th, Els drained a 30-foot birdie putt to become the first person to go back-to-back at the Sony in 17 years.
It was a similar story of breakdown and redemption for Els last year.
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Sony Open in Hawaii
Waialae Country Club
(7,060 yards, par 70)
1 Ernie Els (-18)
2 Harrison Frazar
3 Davis Love III
4 Frank Lickliter II
T5 Jerry Kelly
T5 Briny Baird
7 John Riegger
T8 Stephen Ames
T8 Craig Barlow
T10 Omar Uresti
T10 Vijay Singh
T10 John Huston
T10 Retief Goosen
T10 Paul Azinger
Tied with rookie Aaron Baddeley with two holes to play, Els faced a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th. In his line about three feet from the hole was Baddeley's coin mark, and Els failed to ask the young Aussie to move it (he later said he misread the putt). Wouldn't you know it, as Els' putt was tracking toward the hole, the ball hit the marker, preventing it from dropping. It would prove to be big, as Baddeley went on to bogey the hole to fall a shot behind Els.
Both had makeable birdie putts on the 18th: Els missed and Badds made his to force the playoff, which Els eventually won on the second extra hole with a winding 55-footer.
The moral of the story? When Els leaves the door open, make sure you slam it shut. Especially in Hawaii.
She followed a first-round 2-over 72 with a 2-under 68 on Friday that left her one agonizing shot short of becoming the youngest person (male or female) to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. Her highlights:
Next up for the 14-year-old Wie is a return to ninth grade, but we'll be seeing her again soon. She'll play in the LPGA's Safeway International in mid-March and a week later will tee it up in the LPGA's first major -- the Kraft Nabisco, where she finished tied for ninth last year.
It was there in 2000 that Azinger earned his first victory since his 1993 PGA Championship, his first win after battling and beating the cancer that kept him out of golf for most of 1994 and took a toll on his game.
This week, the Sony Open was again a silver lining after a very cloudy 2003 season: His tie for 10th was his best showing in more than a year. He posted three rounds of 67 or better in Oahu, compared to just six such rounds all of last season. He finished 169th on the money list in 2003, making just 10 cuts in 26 events and failing to post a top-10 finish all year.
A local favorite who is very familiar with the Erinvale course, Immelman picked up his second victory in his last two outings, his previous coming in November's World Cup with fellow South African Sabbatini.
Colin Montgomerie started his season early in a bid to assure himself a spot on the European Ryder Cup squad, finishing tied for 16th in his first event with a new caddie, new clubs and a new ball.
David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and he can be reached at email@example.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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