It took 21 tries, but Scott Verplank finally was able to loft the trophy for winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Verplank, 42, shot a final-round 66 to top Luke Donald (68) by one shot to earn his fifth career PGA Tour victory, and first since the 2001 Canadian Open.
"There's no question in my mind that the stars lined up and I got a little help from upstairs. I just haven't been playing that good," Verplank told reporters afterward. "I think Byron had a hand in this week."
Verplank, who earned $1.134 million and a custom-made motorcycle built by Orange County Choppers for his victory, was a personal friend of Nelson, who passed away last year, playing several rounds with the legend and often receiving inspirational notes from the great champion.
"I think Byron had a hand in this week," said Verplank, a Texas native. "(Peggy Nelson) just told me right before I came in here that he picked the winner this week. I think he might have."
For Donald, his 12th consecutive round under par at the tournament wasn't enough to help him grab his first win of the season. Donald, who had a three-shot lead with 12 holes to play, double bogeyed No. 9 en route to his second runner-up finish in 2007. The Englishman had previously finished second at the Sony Open in January. Donald had a chance to force a playoff with Verplank, but missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
"I will look at the positive, but right now I'm very disappointed. I came here to win today," Donald told reporters afterward. "I've had a couple good chances this year. It's not much fun finishing second, to be honest. I much prefer the feeling of being the champion."
In his first tournament since beginning work with swing coach Butch Harmon, Phil Mickelson used a final round 65 to finish in a tie for third place along with Rory Sabbatini, Jerry Kelly and Ian Poulter. Defending champion Brett Wetterich finished tied for 10th, while early leader Sean O'Hair saw his run of Top-15 finishes come to an end as he was unable to recover from a 74 in the third round, ending up tied for 15th.
In the end, it was a touching victory for Verplank, who despite success of the Tour, had not won in well more than 100 starts. In 2001, Verplank was a runner-up in the event, which he considers his "fifth major" due to his friendship and admiration of Nelson.
"You know what, it means a lot to me. Winning this tournament is the only thing that's important to me today, said Verplank. "Yeah, I'm glad I won again, but golly, to me this is bigger than just notching up another win on the PGA Tour. Yeah, it's awesome that I won a Tour event, I'm very proud of that. But the fact that it's this one, all that stuff hasn't sunk in yet."
April 30, 2007
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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