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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > PGA Tour > AT&T Pebble Beach > Round 4


Arron Oberholser wins maiden PGA Tour title

Winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am met all of Arron Oberholser's expectations.

He figured it would be tough because he had never won before on the PGA Tour, and even after putting five shots between him and Mike Weir after three holes, Oberholser spent the rest of the day battling his nerves and his swing.

He knew he would need some good breaks, and none was bigger than a tee shot on the 15th hole that bounced twice off the cart path and was headed for trouble until it caromed back off a tree and into a clearing, setting up an unlikely birdie that sealed the victory Sunday.

And then came the proud, peaceful stroll down the 18th fairway, the most famous closing hole in America.

"I always watched guys growing up win the golf tournament, and the walk up 18 at Pebble Beach is unlike anything else," he said after closing with an even-par 72 for a five-shot victory. "Even when you're playing here by yourself, or with a foursome, it's still an incredible walk. But knowing that you're the champion ... I wish everybody could feel that way. It's incredible."

But he required some help -- first from Weir, then from a tree.

Weir, tied for the lead with Oberholser at the start of the day, was five shots behind after three holes. He went out of bounds at the par-5 second to make double bogey, then hit over the green at No. 3 to drop another shot.

Oberholser built his lead to six shots with six holes, then began to limp home.

He took bogey from the fairway bunker on the 13th, and was made another bogey on the par-5 14th when he hit under a tree and had to punch out into the fairway. Then came the tee shot on the 15th, even farther to the right.

"Hits the path not once, but twice," he said. "Then I see it fly into this tree and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, what are you doing?"' Oberholser said. "I get up there and was like, 'Wow."'

Only when he reached his ball did he realize it popped out of the tree and gave him a clear shot at the green with a sand wedge. He stuffed it to 8 feet for birdie that essentially sealed the victory.

"I didn't feel that confident with my swing," Oberholser said. "I think Mike sensed it a little bit, that I was starting to choke on some cotton. He was doing his best to put some pressure on me."

Instead, Weir stumbled to a 78, his worst score in the final round with a share of the lead since he shot 80 in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah playing with Tiger Woods. Weir had mud on his ball when it went O.B. at No. 2 and when his wedge went over the green at No. 3.

"But that wasn't my problem," Weir said. "My wedge game and putting was what killed me. When you hit 13 of 14 fairways and shoot 78, your wedge and putting is not very good."

Oberholser made a safe bogey on the par-3 17th and closed with a two-putt par to finish at 17-under 271, five shots ahead of Rory Sabbatini (72), who was never within four shots of the lead all day. Weir and Jonathan Byrd (69) were another stroke behind.

Oberholser won in his 76th start on the PGA Tour, and became the first player since Matt Gogel in 2002 to make the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am his first tour win.

He earned $972,000, but lost a week off.

Oberholser had planned to move into a new house in two weeks, but his victory likely will move him into the 40 in the world ranking, easily qualifying for the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa.

The 31-year-old Oberholser grew up in San Mateo and played college golf at San Jose State, and there were cheers of "Go Spartans" throughout a final round of warmth and sunshine on the Monterey Peninsula.

He wanted to purge memories of two years ago at Pebble Beach when he was tied for the lead going into the final round, only to watch Vijay Singh put him away early with three straight birdies.

Sunday also turned suddenly, but not how anyone imagined.

From the middle of the fairway on the par-5 second hole, Weir hooked his approach shot off the road and out of bounds to take double bogey, and Oberholser got up-and-down from a bunker for birdie and a three-shot lead. On the next hole, Weir went over the green and made bogey, while Oberholser made an 8-footer for birdie.

But a five-shot lead didn't make it any easier for Oberholser, who once called this tournament his fifth major because of so many childhood memories.

And his nerves began to show.

Oberholser was standing over a 3-foot par putt on the fifth hole when the grandstand started to leave, and Oberholser backed off and asked them to stand still. Then he missed the putt and slapped his leg. With his the mark of his amateur partner in front of his line, he picked it up before realizing his partner had a tap-in for par.

Uncertain what to do, he replaced the mark and his partner tapped in. Because they were a team, they had to take Oberholser's bogey for the pro-am competition, and wound up one shot behind.

He steadied himself with a birdie on the par-5 sixth, but it wasn't long before he started missing shots left and right. Even so, Oberholser kept his comfortable lead because Weir continued to struggle with his putting and no one else managed to make a run.

Sabbatini reached 13 under, but missed the ninth fairway to make bogey and fell seven shots behind.

"After nine holes, I realized my chances were dead," Sabbatini said.

Oberholser kept everyone breathing until his great break on the 15th, setting up a walk along the Pacific Ocean toward a trophy he long dreamed of winning.



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