Byrd takes Buick for first victory

Monday, October 28, 2002

PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- Jonathan Byrd hit pay dirt Sunday at the Buick Challenge, closing with a 9-under 63 to become the 17th first-time winner on the PGA Tour this year.

Byrd made five straight putts on the back nine at Callaway Gardens, two of them for eagle, and was within range of the tour's 72-hole scoring record in relation to par. By the end of the day, he was simply thankful to get his first victory.

David Toms put together a strong rally and had an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff, but it slid over the left edge of the cup. Toms started the final round one stroke out of the lead, shot 65, and it still wasn't enough.

Blame that on Byrd, an appropriate name for the champion of this Buick Challenge, where birdies were falling all over the place. He made 27 birdies and two eagles over four rounds on the rain-softened Mountain View course.

"A first-time winner took it deep on me today," Toms said.

Byrd finished at 27-under 261 and earned $666,000.

"You want it so bad because you always know you can do it," said the 24-year-old Byrd, in his first year on tour. "The greatest thing in the world is to hit great shots when you need them the most."

Toms played probably his best golf of the season -- aside from the Ryder Cup -- and wound up with his third runner-up finish this year.

Phil Mickelson closed with a 63 to finish third at 265.

Along with getting a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, Byrd became the top candidate to be rookie of the year, and moved up to No. 41 on the money list. A strong showing at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic next week might be enough to get into the top 40 and qualify for the Masters.

"My goals for the year were to finish in the top 40 and I wanted to win a tournament," Byrd said. "And now I've won a tournament."

Senior Tour Championship: Tom Watson shot a soggy, 5-under 67 and beat Gil Morgan by two strokes to win the Senior Tour Championship in Oklahoma City.

Watson earned $440,000 for his first victory of the year on the Senior PGA Tour. The five-time British Open champion finished at 14-under 274.

Morgan struggled down the stretch in a 69 that left him at 276, three strokes ahead of Bob Gilder, who closed with a 68.

Nine Bridges Classic: Se Ri Pak easily won the wind-swept Nine Bridges Classic in Jeju Island, South Korea, closing with an even-par 72 to beat Carin Koch by six strokes.

The South Korean star finished at 3-under 213, while Koch had a final-round 73 to wind up at 219. Pak won $225,000.

--From wire reports

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