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Rod Pampling savours Arnold Palmer moment

Australia's Rod Pampling defends his title at this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational with one memory from a year ago overshadowing everything else.

"To have Arnold hand the trophy over is very special," the 37-year-old from Queensland told reporters during practice at Bay Hill Club.

"With Arnold's name on there, I think this is right behind the majors. It's a great tournament to win."

Pampling held off Briton Greg Owen in a wildly fluctuating finish to clinch his second PGA Tour title by a shot in an event that has been held at Palmer's club since 1979.

Owen had been one ahead with two holes to play before three-putting from just under four feet for a double-bogey five on 17. He also bogeyed the last to gift Pampling the tournament.

The Australian did not see Owen's second and third putts on the 17th green but vividly recalled the reaction of the watching gallery.

"I just started walking and then I heard the crowd," Pampling said. "I turned around and I see it sort of back there and I was like: 'Oh'.

"I only had a chance to turn and take half a step. It happened so fast because he was around there really quick and missed it.

"It was an instant and then, well, let's just get to the tee and hit the shot and not think about it. Now you're tied for the lead."

Pampling, whose maiden PGA Tour victory came at the 2004 International, had done well to recover after surrendering a two-shot lead in the final round with a double-bogey six at the 13th.

He birdied 15 and, despite a bogey on 17, became the second non-American to triumph in the tournament's 40-year history. South Africa's Ernie Els was the first in 1998.

Since last year's tournament, Pampling and Owen have met and chatted several times on the golfing circuit and remain entirely comfortable in the other's company.

"It hasn't affected us in any way that we kind of blind-side each other and just keep passing each other and not talking," Pampling said. "It's definitely not like that."

March 14, 2007


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