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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2008 > PGA Tour > Puerto Rico Open > Round 4


Greg Kraft snatches narrow victory

Now, it’s official—Greg Kraft is a winner on the PGA Tour.

Kraft shot a 70 to outlast Bo Van Pelt down the stretch, finishing 14 under for a one-shot victory Sunday at the inaugural Puerto Rico Open.

Jerry Kelly (70), at No. 63 the highest-ranked golfer here, and Van Pelt (72) were second at Trump International Golf Club. Briny Baird (72) and Kevin Stadler (67) were another shot behind.

Kraft won the Deposit Guaranty Classic in Mississippi 15 years ago. Since it took place the same weekend as the Masters, however, it didn’t count as an “official” tour win.

The world’s best may have again been elsewhere for Kraft’s latest success, playing Doral’s Blue Monster in the World Golf Championship’s CA Championships.

This time, though, there’ll be no asterisks.

Kraft earned $630,000—more than he’s made on the PGA Tour combined since 2003—and has secured playing privileges through 2010. He had played only two other PGA Tour events this season, his best finish before now a tie for 19th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, which also came the week of a WGC tournament.

It’s been a long road back to the top for Kraft, who turns 44 in April.

Kraft had closed in on the tour’s top 50 money winners a decade ago and looked to be entering the prime of his career. However, he contracted an illness, Valley fever, during the 2002 Tucson Open. The disease is caused by a fungus that get stirred up in soil and attacks the lungs.

Kraft suddenly was losing strength and didn’t know what was wrong. Doctors had trouble diagnosing the malady, even telling Kraft he had cancer. He underwent painful chemotherapy and had a section of a lung removed.

The problems led Kraft to sue the PGA Tour and the resort that hosted the tournament. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, Kraft said.

Gradually, Kraft found his strength. This week in Puerto Rico, he rediscovered his championship game.

No one was steadier than Kraft. He went 29 straight holes without a bogey on the weekend until a meaningless mistake on the 72nd hole.

Kraft began Sunday a shot behind Van Pelt, who led after each of first three days here.

Early on, Van Pelt seemingly locked down his own first tour win with a stunning eagle-3 on the fifth hole to grab a two-shot lead.

Still, Kraft stayed close with a birdie on No. 5. His chance came soon enough as Van Pelt had consecutive bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes to fall into a three-way tie for first with the back nine to go.

Kraft and Van Pelt had matching birdies on the 12th to stay tied at 14 under. Two holes later, Kraft moved in front for good after Van Pelt’s bogey.

Briny Baird was part of that three-way tie for first. But Baird followed with four straight bogeys to fall from contention. He rallied back within a shot of Kraft after a stretch of three birdies in four holes, but that was as close as Baird could get.

Kraft wasn’t about to bobble this one away. He cemented things with a birdie on the par-4 17th to open a three-shot cushion.



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