Trailing a PGA Tour vet like Justin Leonard by four strokes entering the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, D.J. Trahan wasn't overly optimistic about his comeback hopes.
Leonard struggled down the stretch, however, while Trahan closed with a 7-under-par 65 Sunday at The Classic Club to earn his second career PGA Tour victory. The 27-year-old former Clemson star finished the 90-hole event at 26-under 334 at Palm Desert, Calif., to earn a $918,000 first-place check, 4,500 FedEx Cup points and an invitation to play in the Masters.
"I obviously knew starting the day it was going to be a long, hard-fought day with Justin having a four-stroke lead, but I did what I knew I had to do," Trahan told reporters. "I knew I had to go out and shoot a low number, and fortunately, I was able to put some good shots together and make some putts. And it's a wonderful feeling."
Remarkably, Trahan still trailed Leonard — an 11-time winner on tour, including a victory in the 1997 British Open — by four shots with just 11 holes to play. At that point, he admitted that the notion of rallying from behind was starting to fade.
"Four shots is not an insurmountable lead by any means ... [but] you certainly don't feel particularly optimistic about it when you're playing against a guy like Justin Leonard," Trahan said. "I wasn't playing against a rookie who was in the lead for the first time. He's won a major championship, Ryder Cups — I don't know how many times he's won on tour, but it's definitely more than me."
Four holes later, Trahan and Leonard were tied as Leonard made consecutive bogeys on holes 10 and 11. Trahan rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 10 and pulled into a first-place tie with a par at No. 11.
"It's an amazing thing how just a couple of putts made or just one little mistake from somebody, and you can kind of get right back in it," said Trahan, whose previous win came at the 2006 Southern Farm Bureau Classic. "And that's what happened to me."
Trahan took the lead for good with a birdie on No. 14. Still, he led by just one stroke heading to the 18th tee, but watched Leonard hit his drive into the water and take a bogey, while Trahan birdied the par-5 hole.
Par 5s were perhaps the key to Trahan's round. He birdied all four par 5s, accounting for half of his birdies.
"Obviously any time you tee it up on a par 5, you're thinking of it as a scoring hole," Trahan said.
Leonard, who had shot 68, 64, 67 and 66 in his first four rounds, wound up with an even-par 72. He settled for second at 23-under 337.
No matter what your credentials are, Leonard said, blowing a big lead is still disconcerting.
"I think they all pretty much hurt the same," Leonard told reporters. "I'm disappointed that the last four holes I didn't give myself a chance."
Anthony Kim and Kenny Perry tied for third at 22-under 338. Chez Reavie, Ryan Moore and Steve Elkington tied for fifth at 21-under 339.
January 21, 2008
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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