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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > PGA Tour > Valero Texas Open > Round 4


Eric Axley gains maiden PGA Tour title

Eric Axley succumbed to the urge to win his first PGA Tour event with pizazz. But after a late double bogey, he got back to the original game plan and won the Texas Open by three shots Sunday.

Axley, a left-hander living in Knoxville, Tenn., closed with a 1-over 71.

He led by four shots to start the day, and built a six-shot lead heading into the back nine. But the double bogey on 14 after he drove into the trees cut it briefly to two. It's a 543-yard, par 5 reachable in two shots with a driver off the tee.

"I didn't stick to my game plan. I got aggressive, and I paid for it," Axley said. "It was just a bad decision. It wasn't a driver hole for me today. I just wanted to play one shot at a time and keep it in the fairway."

The 32-year-old Axley had a stretch of 53 consecutive holes without a bogey or worse on the par-70 Resort Course at LaCantera Golf Club. The string ended on the 14th and he went on to finish at 15-under 265.

After a bogey on No. 17, Axley landed a 143-yard approach shot 4 feet away at No. 18. He sank the birdie putt and got an enthusiastic hug from wife Cortney.

"It's hard to win on any tour," Axley said. "I know a lot of this hasn't hit me yet. But, yeah, it's cool."

Three players finished at 12 under, including 21-year-old Anthony Kim. Playing in his first PGA Tour event with a sponsor's exemption, Kim shot a 65 to tie for second with Wilson (69) and first-round co-leader Justin Rose (68).

From La Quinta, Calif., Kim skipped his senior year at Oklahoma and played in two events on the Nationwide Tour with a best finish of 57th.

"I've never been that great at school, to be honest," Kim said. "But I felt like my game was ready. I feel if I play well I can play with anybody."

Axley earned $720,000 to push his season total to $924,029.

Kim earned $298,666 and has an exemption into the PGA Tour's Southern Farm Bureau Classic this week in Madison, Miss.

After winning on the Nationwide Tour last year, Axley's best finishes this year had been a pair of 24th-place ties in Tucson and the B.C. Open.

Axley built an imposing lead on his fourth hole of the day. He went to the No. 4 tee with a three-shot lead and left the green with a six-shot margin.

He found his first fairway of the day with a tee shot to the left side of the 434-yard hole. He landed his approach on the green and was left with a 27-foot putt.

He waited while his closest competitor, Frank Lickliter II, blasted from a green-side bunker. But Lickliter hit to a part of the green that sloped back to the fairway, and his ball rolled at least 20 feet off the putting surface.

He double-bogeyed, and Axley made his 27-footer for a birdie and a commanding six-shot advantage.

"It was a shock to me what happened to Frank," Axley said, "and I hit what I thought was my best putt of the week."

If Lickliter's troubles weren't enough, Ted Purdy was in the same group and was four behind Axley starting the fourth hole. But he sent his tee shot into an unplayable lie on the way to a quadruple-bogey 8.

Chris Riley, a member of the U.S. team at the 2004 Ryder Cup, pulled within four shots after an 8-foot birdie putt at the fifth.

But Riley pulled his approach shot on the 370-yard eighth hole about 80 feet off the green, and it took him five shots to get in the hole for a triple bogey.



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