Parry wins Doral with 176-yard shot
6-iron for eagle defeats Verplank in playoff at
March 7: Craig Parry wins the Ford Championship with a 176-yard shot on the first hole of sudden death against Scott Verplank. NBC's Roger Maltbie interviews the winner.
MIAMI - Craig Parry never saw the ball drop. He didn’t need to, either.
His watched his 6-iron shot from 176 yards sail through the air and bounce just in front of the 18th hole. He knew it was good. He had no idea how good.
It was perfect.
Parry’s second shot on the par-4 18th rolled into the hole for an eagle Sunday to beat Scott Verplank on the first playoff hole in the Ford Championship at Doral.
The 38-year-old Australian realized the ball was in the cup by the reaction of the packed gallery surrounding the green. Parry tossed his club, kicked his left leg up and pumped his right fist. Then he hugged his caddie, his brother Glenn.
“It’s amazing,” Parry said. “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 drive went 298 yards and 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 and handed his putter back to his caddie.
“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 an 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.
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.
The lefty needed 31 putts to get around the Blue Monster, including 17 on the front nine. He missed five birdie putts from inside 13 feet during his first nine holes, including birdie attempts on Nos. 1 and 2 from inside 6 feet.
“When those didn’t go in, not only did it hurt my score, but it also hurt my confidence with the putter,” said Mickelson, who hadn’t finished lower than seventh in any of the previous five events this year.
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 6½-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 helped 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 second career tour 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.”
Winning for a second time, Parry said, validates his career.
“I won’t say anyone could win once, but to win twice, it means that you’re able to play on tour,” he said.
Parry almost quit playing on tour in 2002 because he was tired of the long flights to and from Australia. Coincidentally, his week started with jet-lag troubles. He woke up less than 15 minutes before his opening round tee time Thursday because he slept through the alarm clock.
“I didn’t think there was any chance in the world I would be sitting here,” he said.
Divots: 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. ... Parry’s playoff victory was his first on the PGA Tour. His career record in playoffs is 4-3, including three losses in the Australian Masters and one in the Australian Open. ... Parry is the ninth winner this year over 30. Only Tiger Woods, who won the Match Play Championship, is under 30.