1998 Buick Invitational - Final Notes
Simpson Beats Kendall In Playoff In 54-Hole Event
by Martin Olivera

Scott Simpson earned his eighth PGA TOUR victory in the rain-shortened 1998 Buick Invitational. He came from eight strokes back to beat Skip Kendall in the first playoff hole, after both players had finished at 12-under par (204) at the completion of the third, and final, round of the tournament. This is his first win since the 1993 GTE Byron Nelson Classic. His $378,000 paycheck is also his largest since he joined the TOUR. Scott Simpson

All the starting times arrangements made yesterday in order to be able to complete 72 holes today, were scratched early in the morning after overnight rains made it impossible for the course maintenance crew to get the South course ready by 8:15am. At 9.09am the decision was made to resume play at 10.45am, and to shorten the event to 54 holes. They resumed play on time, in a window of partly cloudy weather, and a slight ocean breeze.

When play was suspended due to darkness yesterday, there were 19 players within three shots atop the leaderboard, and the last group had still 10 holes to finish. Scott Simpson, who yesterday was in a course-record-tieing pace at -11 (-7 for the day) when play was suspended, had three more holes to go: the difficult 7th, the par-3 8th, and the par-5 9th. There was a chance that he could win the tournament on the 9th green, with no TV, no public ovation, no last-hole thrill. He surprisingly "came out shooting", birdieing the 7th (chipped in from 20 feet), moving him to -12 and the lead. But he gave it back when he three-putted 8th. He then finished with a hard-earned birdie on 9th. After 45 minutes of play, he was in the club house waiting for the leaders to finish, with a 64, best score for the third round, and a 204 (-12) overall.

One by one, all those 19 players within 3 shots of the lead succumbed to the rough and difficulty of Torrey South. Woods, who had 6 holes to go, was at -9 when he resumed play, and had two par-5's ahead. He made his birdie on 13th, but bogeyed 15th, got it back with a birdie on 16th, and then missed a makeable 10-foot birdie putt on 17th. His long eagle putt on 18th came just a few inches short, and so was his final score -11.

Sutherland took the lead temporarily when he birdied 10th, and Davis Love III joined him when he birdied the long par-4 12th. Right then, Simpson was posting his score and began his wait. The pivotal hole was once more the par-5 13th (O'Meara eagled it last year and went on to win), but this time in the opposite direction. Of all the players in contention, one or two shots back, only Woods and Kendall birdied it. Pate and Tway made bogey, and Sutherland and Love parred it. Sutherland then bogeyed 14th, and failed to make another birdie on his way in. Love also bogeyed 14th, and then 16th, and his eagle putt, just like Wood's, was a few inches short on 18th. They both also finished at -11. Steve Pate birdied 14th, but then bogeyed 17th and only managed to par 18th. He finished at -10. And finally Skip Kendall, who had birdied 12th and 13th, made a 10-foot birdie putt on 18th, after reaching the right greenside bunker in two, to tie Simpson. So there wasn't going to be a winner on the 9th green after all.

This was the first playoff in this tournament since 1986, when Tway beat Langer on the second hole, and the 12th playoff in tournament history. The playoff holes assigned were 18th, 16th, 17th, and again 18th. Both players had a shot at the green in two: Simpson missed it into the right rough and had a marginal lie, but was able to sand-wedge a soft pitch to 5 feet. Kendall had a long putt for eagle, but he left it two and a half feet short. Simpson made, Kendall missed. Game over. Simpson was the winner, in front of the crowd, the skyboxes, his dad, his wife and children and his San Diego friends. The way it was supposed to be.

"It was a dream to win at home", said Simpson. "It's a huge thrill. I feel fortunate to be here today, after having my worst (last season) year on TOUR", he added. Simpson was playing under the All Time Top-50 money winner exemption. He had failed for the first time ever to make the top-125 in the money list last season. "I thought someone was going to get to 14 or 15 under, but nobody was making any putts", he said. "It was unbelievable". He joins local TOUR players Stadler, O'Meara, Mickelson and Twiggs as winners of this event, as well as Gene Littler and Billy Casper. "Besides a major", he said, "this one is the one to win". "I was a little jealous of Craig and Phil, but I'm following his (Stadler's) steps ... which are usually kind of deep" (laughter).

Check one up for the "40+" generation.

Final Day Notes

  • Stan Humphries, San Diego Chargers quarterback, caddied for Simpson all three rounds. Ironically, he was in runner-up Skip Kendall's ProAm team.

  • Jeff Sanday, who played in his first PGA TOUR event and was in contention for two and a half rounds, needed a top-10 finish to be able to play next week in Hawaii. He shot a third round 73, finished at -8 and missed the top-10 by 2 shots.

  • Eagle Count: There were 24 eagles this week (five on the last day). Twelve on each course. The 498-yard par-5 18th South was eagled 7 times (played to a 4.58 average), and the 485-yard par-5 18th North was eagled 4 times (played to a 4.54 average). Besides Dick Mast's ace on the 3rd hole (North), there were three other unusual eagles: Michael Bradley made a 2 on 15th South, Davis Love III made a 2 on the par-4 2nd North, and Kelly Gibson made a 2 on the par-4 5th North. The latter was also eagled last year (Ronnie Black).

  • The Courses:The North course played to an average of 69.77, while the South course played to an average of 72.42, a 2.7 difference. Easiest holes: Both 18th's. Hardest Holes: 6th North (3.19), and 7th South (4.23).

  • Pro-Am Champions: Cheryl Ladd, the spokeswoman for Buick, was in Davis Love III's team, which also included Bob Coletta (General Manager of Buick Motors Division), Paul Richey and Gunnar Wilmot. They played the North course. The Pro-Am team that won the South course competition included Jay Don Blake, Art Carroll, Stan Spring, Ron Vanderbeek, and Scott Vanderbeek.

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