Watson wins record-setting seven-man Boeing Classic playoff

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August 26, 2007
PGA TOUR staff

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. (AP) -- Seven players came walking up the 18th fairway, a sight never seen before on a major professional golf tour -- let alone most local municipal golf courses.

Typically, seven-man playoffs are reserved for settling bets at local clubs, not the Champions Tour.

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INSIDE THE NUMBERS
WATSON'S FINAL STATS
Category Total Rank
Eagles 0 N/A
Birdies 15 T3
Pars 34 T33
Bogeys 4 T70
Double Bogeys 1 T16
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 71.4% T33
Driving Distance 281.0 yds. 15
Greens in Regulation 64.8% T24
Putts per Round 27.0 T13
Putts per GIR 1.714 T23
Sand Saves 50.0% T27

"We've done it back home, but we all had a few beers," R.W. Eaks said about Sunday's record-setting playoff at the Boeing Classic. "That was fun."

Denis Watson eventually ended the long afternoon, capping a wild finish that started at the turn by making an 18-foot putt for eagle on the second playoff hole to win his second Champions Tour event of the season.

Watson edged Eaks and Craig Stadler on the second playoff hole -- the third time the trio had played the 18th hole in an hour. Watson gave an emphatic fist pump as the ball dropped, ending the largest playoff in Champions Tour history.

Watson, who won the Senior PGA Championship in May for his first major, watched a chance to win the tournament in regulation slip away with an errant tee shot on No. 17 that found a lake fronting the par 3. That dropped Watson back to 9 under par and into a swarm of other golfers who posted the same number.

"The only thing you like about being in that playoff is when you come out on top," Watson said.

The previous Champions Tour playoff record was five players, which happened twice. The PGA TOUR record is six players.

The seven players who finished at 9 under for the tournament all reached the mark in various ways. Watson, Eaks and Gil Morgan all missed a chance at birdie on the 18th. Stadler made birdie on the final two holes to climb into the mix. Joe Ozaki also birdied No. 18 to reach 9 under.

David Eger -- the winner here in the first event two years ago -- posted the low round of 6-under 66, then had to sit by with an unopened beer next to him, watching as the lead regularly changed over the final few holes.

"It felt like a shootout or something," Eaks said.

To start the playoff, all seven went off the 18th tee in the same group, but only Morgan was in position to reach to the green in two. His 5-wood was struck well, but the ball was slightly left of the flag and landed in the bunker next to the green.

Eaks hit a perfect pitch with his third shot to 18 inches, putting pressure on the others. Watson hit his wedge over the green onto the fringe, but chipped in from 23 feet, forcing others to make birdie to stay in the playoff.

Only Eaks and Stadler were able to match. Stadler confidently sunk his 22-foot putt, while Eaks patiently waited before tapping in his birdie putt.

"I was missing putts all day and then I made two in a row to get into the playoff," said Stadler, who hasn't won on the tour since 2004. "I was just happy to be there."

Morgan and Eger missed 12-foot birdie putts, while Ozaki's shot out of the green-side bunker hit the edge of the cup but rolled past.

Watson, Eaks and Stadler went back and played 18 again. All three reached the green in two, but Watson kept the playoff from continuing. Eaks missed a 12-footer and Stadler's long eagle putt from the front of the green was just short.

"It's tough to win. The emotions that grab a hold of you," Watson said. "People who haven't done it don't understand it."

Ray Stewart, who led after two rounds, is still in that position.

Stewart, the sentimental favorite from Abbotsford, British Columbia, played a solid first two rounds, but was shaky on the front nine. He still held the lead at the turn, but fell apart on Nos. 15 and 17. Playing in the final group and trailing Watson by one, Stewart four-putted the 15th green for double bogey. He astonishingly rebounded to birdie the 16th, but then matched Watson and hit his tee shot on No. 17 -- a 5-iron -- into the water.

"I wasn't even aiming at the pin," Stewart said.

Stewart birdied the final hole, but finished one shot out of the playoff. He was trying to become the first Monday qualifier in Champions Tour history to win a tournament wire-to-wire. Only 10 qualifiers have ever won a tour event, most recent was Pete Oakley at the 2004 Senior British Open.

"I feel like quitting. Probably not going to," Stewart said.

Jerry Pate also missed the playoff by a shot after missing a 2-foot par putt on No. 18.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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