Pampling wins Bay Hill sword after Owens putts away lead

Monday, March 20, 2006

The silver sword for winning the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Fla., went to Rod Pampling.

Greg Owen felt like falling on one.

Owen had his first PGA Tour victory seemingly sewn up late Sunday afternoon, a two-shot lead and 40 inches left for a par on the 17th hole.

Pampling figured it was over. Everyone did.

But the par putt slid by the right side of the cup, costing Owen a valuable cushion going to the tough 18th. Angry at the miss, he quickly stepped to the other side of the cup to rap in a 2-footer for bogey, only to see that one horseshoe around the cup, a double bogey that left him tied for the lead.

"It was one of those silly mistakes that I'll be remembered for," Owen said.

If golf wasn't cruel enough, Owen had a 12-foot par putt to force a playoff on the 18th hole, hit what he called his best stroke of the week, and watched it catch the back lip and spin out of the hole.

It was a finish that might well haunt him for some time.

"You don't get many chances to win on the PGA Tour, and on a great course like this," Owen said. "I had it in my pocket. It was there. And I threw it away."

Three putts from 40 inches cost him his first PGA Tour victory and a trip to the Masters. And it overshadowed a solid recovery from Pampling, who squandered a four-shot lead in the final round but hit the shots he needed at the end of the day. Pampling found the center of the 18th green with a 6-iron and two-putted for an even-par 72 and a victory that felt somewhat hollow.

Tournament host Arnold Palmer slipped the navy blazer over his shoulders and presented him the silver sword.

"He looked at me and just sort of went, 'Wow.' And that was exactly what I said to him," Pampling said. "It's one of those deals you don't know what to say after seeing that."

Pampling finished at 14-under 274 and earned $990,000 for his second PGA Tour victory. But it was difficult to celebrate this one. He apologized to Owen in the scoring trailer, not knowing what else to say.

LPGA Tour

Battling wind and rain, Hall of Famer Juli Inkster overcame a four-stroke deficit to win the Safeway International at Superstition Mountain, Ariz.

The 45-year-old Inkster won her 31st career LPGA Tour title and first since 2003. She shot a 5-under 67 to finish at 15-under 273, two strokes ahead of Sarah Lee (73).

Lee, who had led since the last hole of the second round, double-bogeyed the par-4 14th hole to allow Inkster to take a one-stroke lead.

Inkster bogeyed the 16th to drop back into a tie, but Inkster locked up the victory with a birdie on the par-5 18th as Lee was bogeying the 17th.

Aree Song (73) finished third at 12-under 276.

Toshiba Classic

Brad Bryant won his first Champions Tour title, closing with a 5-under 66 for a one-stroke victory over Bobby Wadkins, John Harris and 2005 winner Mark Johnson in the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif.

Bryant finished with a 9-under 204 total and earned $247,500. Wadkins also closed with a 66 and Harris and Johnson shot 68s.

-- From wire reports

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