AT&T Championship, Round 3 notebookOctober 31, 2010
Dave Senko, PGA TOUR staff
Weather: Sunny and pleasant with highs in the low-to-mid-80s. Winds were from the SSE at 5-15 mph.
• Final Leaderboard:1 -- Rod Spittle (201/-12); 2 -- Jeff Sluman (201/-12);T3 -- John Cook, Chien-soon Lu, & Larry Nelson (202/11); T6 -- Corey Pavin, Steve Haskins & Jay Don Blake (203/-10). Spittle won with par-3 on first playoff hole.
• Rod Spittle made a four-foot putt for par on the first playoff hole to defeat Jeff Sluman and become the 11th player in Champions Tour history to open qualify and win the tournament. He is also the first since Pete Oakley did so at the 2004 Senior British Open. The leaderboard was a logjam for most of the afternoon with as many as a half dozen players vying for the lead. Sluman took the lead with a birdie at No. 16 before Spittle ran off birdies on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to tie for the lead at 12-under-par. In the playoff, Sluman hit his tee shot into a bunker and blasted out to 14 feet but missed his par putt. Spittle's tee shot landed in the rough just a foot from the back bunker. Despite an awkward stance, he hit a wedge down to four feet and then sank his winning putt.
• Spittle won $262,500 with his victory as well as a two-year exemption into the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. He is also fully exempt through next year's AT&T Championship which will be staged at the AT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio.
• Spittle will join two of his former college teammates on the Champions Tour next year -- John Cook and Joey Sindelar. The trio were teammates for a portion of their careers at Ohio State. Spittle is a two-time Canadian Amateur Champion. Born in St. Catharine's, Ontario, Spittle now resides in Dublin, Ohio, a Columbus suburb. The 55-year-old Spittle turned professional at age 49.
• Ironically, when Spittle made his Champions Tour debut in 2005, it was in this tournament when it was known as the SBC Championship. After open qualifying, he finished T74.
• Surprisingly, none of the 30 players who came into the event in the top 30 were bumped out of the top 30. There was some movement within the top 30 at the close of play, but no one outside the top 30 earned one of the 30 spots for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in San Francisco this week.
• Bernhard Langer finished T9 and earned 47 points in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race. He now leads with 3,207 points and holds a 582-point margin over Fred Couples. Couples will have to win next week's event and Langer will have to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or worse for him to win the Cup.
• John Cook nearly made it three wins in the last four years in this event. Cook was among the leaders for a portion of the day before making bogeys at Nos. 11 and 13 which proved his undoing. He countered with a birdie at No. 14 to regain a share of the lead at 11-under-par, but Jeff Sluman pulled ahead with consecutive birdies at 15 and 16 to get to 12-under and was later joined by Rod Spittle. Cook had won in both 2007 and 2008 and claimed $674,100 in four visits to Oak Hills CC.
• Larry Nelson's bid to become the Champions Tour's oldest winner fell short as he finished T3, but it was his best showing since he was second at the 2009 Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
• One of the more interesting battles on Sunday was for the 50th spot on the 2010 Champions Tour money list. While it does not guarantee fully-exempt status for 2011, the 50th position is the last position that retains some eligibility under the prior year money list (Floor of 50). It was a see-saw battle between Mark James (51st coming into the event) and Bruce Vaughan (50th coming in), but after moving ahead of James by just over $1,000 with a birdie at his 17th hole, Vaughan made a bogey on his final hole (No. 9) and finished $7,191 behind James. Neither would have been exempt via all-time money category. However, Larry Nelson's T3 finish later in the afternoon bumped Vaughan to 52nd. Nelson finished $1,478 behind James and 51st.
• The final scoring average for the event was 70.293, the lowest average since the event moved here in 2002. The previous low was 70.419 in 2008.
• It turned out to be a good week for Steve Haskins. An alternate when the week began, Haskins was the last player into the field after Nick Price withdrew due to a death in the family. Haskins parlayed his entry into a T6 finish and a check for $63,000. It was his best showing in a Champions Tour event.