Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Hoch sees the light, wins at Doral

Decision to delay playoff with Furyk proves prudent

The Associated Press

MIAMI - One clutch putt made Scott Hoch look smart for waiting overnight to continue his playoff.

Three great shots that followed made him a winner Monday in the Ford Championship at Doral, a tournament that might be remembered more for how it was stopped than the way it finally ended.

"Yeah, baby!" Hoch said when his 10-foot birdie putt fell.

He raised his arm and smiled at a few hundred fans who returned to Doral for the 20 minutes it took Hoch to defeat Jim Furyk on the third playoff hole.

"This is very big to do this, and to do it how I did," Hoch said. "Under these conditions early in the morning, to hit those shots, that felt great."

Hoch riled a few thousand fans Sunday by refusing to hit his 9-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, claiming he couldn't read the line in darkness.

Hoch had the right to wait until morning - and he had his reasons.

Caddie Damon Green thought the putt moved a little to the right. Hoch, who has had five eye operations, thought it broke to the left.

It turned out to be a prudent decision. "That was one of the reasons that I didn't putt, because I don't want to be standing over a putt that I'm unsure about, especially when I can't see to make it," Hoch said.

When he returned, Hoch studied the putt from three angles and realized Green was right.

"I wouldn't have read that right," Hoch said to his caddie as they walked off the green.

Furyk's birdie putt from 6 feet was good all the way.

They went to the 18th hole, the toughest on the Blue Monster, and Hoch was flawless. His drive split the middle of the fairway, and his 9-iron from 148 yards landed just beyond the flag and rolled 10 feet away.

Furyk drove into the lakeside bunker - he didn't hit the fairway on any of the three playoff holes - and he played out to 25 feet, missing the putt to the left.

Hoch, 47, became the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event since Tom Watson was 48 when he won the Colonial five years ago.

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