Els wins Sony Open in another playoff

Monday, January 19, 2004

HONOLULU -- Ernie Els is getting used to this kind of excitement.

Pushed into a playoff for the second straight year, Els held off an impressive bid by Harrison Frazar with a 30-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole Sunday to win the Sony Open, the first player to successfully defend his title in 17 years.

"A playoff at the Sony -- it's working out for me," Els said.

When the putt disappeared, Els lifted his arms and leaned his head back in relief. The Big Easy made it tough on himself, losing a two-shot lead with five holes to play.

Frazar, winless in 161 starts on the PGA Tour, twice had putts to win -- an eagle putt on the 18th in regulation, and a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 18 on the first playoff hole. The 32-year-old Texan came through with a 15-foot par putt on No. 10 to send the playoff to the third extra hole.

Els made sure it didn't last any longer.

The last time he was in a playoff was November in the Presidents Cup, head-to-head with Tiger Woods over three dramatic holes until darkness led to a tie.

Els got to finish this one off -- plus, he got paid.

Els, who has shot in the 60s every round he has played at Waialae Country Club, closed with a 5-under 65. He earned $864,000 for his 13th career PGA Tour victory.

Els is the first repeat winner in the Sony Open since Corey Pavin in 1987. A year ago, Els holed a 55-foot putt from the fringe on the second extra hole to beat Aaron Baddeley.

Frazar shot a 66, closing with two birdies to finish at 18-under 262 and force the playoff.

He twice rallied from two-shot deficits, a strong performance considering their experience -- Els a three-time major champion with 46 victories worldwide, Frazar in his seventh season on the PGA Tour without a single victory.

Davis Love III was briefly tied for the lead at 13 under when he made the turn, but went six holes before his next birdie and fell out of the race. He closed with a 67 to finish third at 15-under 265.

The Sony Open lost some of its buzz when 14-year-old Michelle Wie went home after a 68 on Friday to miss the cut by one shot. Els and Frazar brought it back to life with a terrific duel.

It was the third time Frazar had the lead going into the final round. He finished fourth in the '98 Colonial, and tied for third last year in the Phoenix Open when Singh shot 63 in the final round.

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