Tucsan Open
Tucsan Open
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Hjertstedt wins after playoff

Only minutes after falling apart on the final hole at the Tucson Open, Gabriel Hjertstedt had to play it again.

The second time, he made a strong drive and approach shot, then sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole today to beat Tommy Armour III and win the second title of his young PGA Tour career.

Minutes before, Armour two-putted from nearly the same spot on the green of the treacherous 18th hole at Tucson National, one of the toughest closing holes on the PGA Tour because of its length (465 yards), water on both sides of the fairway and tri-level green.

Armour's par where Hjertstedt double-bogeyed left them tied at 12-under-par 276 and forced the first playoff in Tucson in 16 years.

"I was thinking when I stood on the tee of the playoff hole, 'Let's do it right this time,' " Hjertstedt said.

Mike Reid and Kirk Triplett tied for third at 277, with Brent Geiberger and Barry Cheesman at 278.

Hjertstedt birdied No. 18 in the first round and parred it twice, but his double-bogey 6 gave him a 4-under 68. Armour, who shared the third-round lead with Cheesman, shot 70.

Armour got into the playoff by making a 6-inch birdie putt on the 17th hole and then two-putting No. 18 for par to complete a three-stroke swing in the last two holes. He reached the green in regulation on the playoff hole, but knocked his 30-foot putt about 5 feet past the hole.

He never got a chance to save par as the 27-year-old Hjertstedt, who became the first Swede to win on tour when he capped his rookie year by winning the 1997 B.C. Open, sent the winner up over a small ridge and into the cup.

"I was standing on the side, and I could tell," Armour said about the putt. "I watched it roll about this far from the hole. I looked at him and I could tell it went in."

The $495,000 first prize was more than Hjertstedt, who occasionally slept in his car to save expenses while getting started on the European Tour, had won in two previous seasons.

The 27-year-old Hjertstedt, who has added 25 yards to his drive since joining the U.S. tour, played a 2-iron to the 18th green both in regulation and in the playoff. His second shot on the 72nd hole landed in a bunker in front, and he came out to about 20 feet. But his putt for par was short by 3 feet, and he two-putted from there.

"It looked so easy to finish it off," he said. "It was very disappointing."

Hjertstedt was in position to win with just a bogey because he broke out of the pack with birdies on the 15th and 17th holes.

The tournament offered a record purse of $2.75 million this year after acquiring a new sponsor, Touchstone Energy.

The last playoff in Tucson took place in 1983, when Gil Morgan beat Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins.

Nolan Henke, Corey Pavin, Scott Gump, Franklin Langham, Eric Rustand and David Toms finished three shots off the lead after a day which began with 18 players within three shots of third-round leaders Armour and Cheesman.