AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am
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A victory for Payne because of the rain

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. Golf shoes still on, rain pants over his knickers, Payne Stewart remained ready to prove that another 18 holes would not stop him from winning for the first time in four years.

He should have listened to David Duval, who knew the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am would be rained out shortly after he made eagle from 142 yards out on the first hole today.

He could have taken a cue from former Eagles drummer Glenn Frey, who was asked whether he was going to play today.

"Cards?'' Frey responded.

After all, this is Pebble Beach. Or is that Puddle Beach?

Rain wreaked havoc on Bing Crosby's old clambake for the third time in four years. Stewart was declared the winner by one stroke over Frank Lickliter when the final round was canceled because of standing water on the course and no hope for better weather.

"I had a feeling it would be good to be leading after 54 holes,'' said Stewart, who managed that with a 5-iron into a foot for birdie on the 18th hole at Spyglass Hill on Saturday to put him at 10-under 206. "I have seen what's happened here before, and I guess I was right. I did want the opportunity to prove I could win in 72 holes, but I'm going to take this and run.

"I was low after 54 holes, and that was good enough this week.''

It usually is at Pebble.

In 1996, only 36 holes were completed by Sunday and the tournament was canceled, the first time that had happened on tour since 1949. Last year when only 36 holes were in after four days, the tour asked players to return in August to play the final and third round. Prize money can only be awarded if 54 holes have been played.

Stewart earned $504,000 for his 10th career PGA Tour victory, but only his second since winning the 1991 U.S. Open. He also picked up valuable points for his quest to make the Ryder Cup team for the first time since 1993.

"I have won again,'' Stewart said. "I think it will be easier this year when I get in position, and I'm going to be in position again because I'm playing good.''

Lickliter liked his chances, but the forecast didn't agree with him. He actually was tied for the lead on Saturday until a bogey on his 17th hole at Spyglass, and then Stewart dropped in the birdie that meant more than he realized.

"I'm just sorry the weather was so bad we couldn't play,'' said Lickliter, who earned $302,400 for his best finish in four years on tour. "I was looking forward to seeing what I could do out there.''

Nearly every hole at Pebble Beach was unplayable because of overnight rains that left puddles all over the course, particularly on the greens. CBS Sports analysts David Feherty and Peter Kostis measured the speed on one green at 3.5 on the Stimpmeter. Earlier in the week, before the rain, the speed had been about 11.

Duval never had to worry about that. His 8-iron took one hop and went into the hole, but he could hear his feet squish as he walked across the green to get the ball from the cup.

"You could tell it wouldn't be long before we were done,'' he said.

Craig Stadler finished alone in third, which might be enough to move him into the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking and into the $5 million Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship later this month.

Stewart was runner-up at Pebble in 1986 when he trailed Fuzzy Zoeller by five strokes going into the final round that was canceled because of rain. He also finished a stroke behind Greg Norman in the 1990 Memorial Tournament -- another event with a history of bad weather -- when it was shortened to 54 holes.

"What goes around comes around,'' Stewart said. "I've been on the other side of the 54-hole deal, and today I'm on the right side of it.''

The next step is winning over 72 holes, which Stewart believes could happen anywhere (except Pebble). He had a four-stroke lead going into the final round of last year's U.S. Open but shot 74 and lost by a stroke to Lee Janzen, who had a 68.

Stewart also led by a stroke over Brandel Chamblee in Vancouver last year but lost by three strokes.

"My swing didn't hold up last year on Sunday that well,'' he said. "It would right now. That's why I didn't care about going out and playing. I wasn't afraid to go out there and play.''

The wild weather of Pebble Beach never gave him that chance, nor did anyone else have an opportunity to catch him.

Play started today with the lift, clean and place rule applied through the green, not just on the fairways. But not everyone was slopping it around.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson birdied the first two holes to get to 4-under, and then came a roar that even Lickliter heard from the practice green.

Duval started the final round seven strokes back, the same margin he made up two weeks ago with the only final-round 59 in tour history for a one-stroke victory in the Bob Hope Chrsyler Classic. He then holed an 8-iron from 142 yards on the first hole for eagle, as about 100 people under umbrellas around the green began begging for a 58. He killed his drive on the par-5 second hole, long enough that he could have reached the green in two.

Then the siren sounded.

"Shoot, I was going to win this thing, too,'' Duval said with a laugh as he walked back in. Looking up at iron-gray sky, he quickly turned his thoughts to a week on the slopes in Idaho.

"They got 14 inches last night,'' he said.

That's better news than anything Puddle Beach can offer.


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