Eaks runs away to record victory in 3M Championship

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July 20, 2008
PGA TOUR staff

BLAINE, Minn. (AP) -- Bad knees and all, R.W. Eaks never felt better.

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Inside the Numbers
Eaks' Final Stats
Category Total Rank
Eagles 1 T4
Birdies 24 1
Pars 26 78
Bogeys 3 T61
Double Bogeys 0 N/A
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 85.7% T28
Driving Distance 298.8 yds. 8
Greens in Regulation 81.5% T17
Putts per Round 26.7 5
Putts per GIR 1.545 2
Sand Saves 0.0 T50

Eaks shot a final round 7-under 65 to win the 3M Championship, posting the lowest score in the tournament's 16-year history to finish with a 54-hole total of 193, four shots better than Ed Dougherty's finish in 2000. His total is the fourth-lowest score in the tour's 29-year history.

"I never dreamed I could shoot that low," said Eaks, who finished at 23 under. "I've had a chance to get in the 20s a couple of times and just could never get there."

"I didn't think you could go that low," said Bernhard Langer, who tied Gary Hallberg for second at 17-under 199.

But it wasn't easy down the stretch.

Eaks, who had one top-10 finish in 14 previous events he completed this year, led by as many as six on the front nine at TPC Twin Cities, but back-to-back birdies by Gene Jones cut the lead to two on 14.

Eaks' second shot on the par-4 15th went through the green, but he regrouped and chipped in out of the rough for birdie. He estimated the shot went 22 or 23 feet.

"It was an absolutely perfect lie, uphill into the wind," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better chip. It was one of those you look at it and you go, 'I think I can chip this in.'"

Jones bogeyed and double-bogeyed the next two holes. He finished fourth, tying his best career finish on the Tour.

"The chip in deflated me a little bit," he said. "He don't walk that good, but you could see a little extra in his step."

The win culminates a recent span in which Eaks, who couldn't walk up stairs in December, gained hope and his attitude changed for the better.

Both of Eaks' knees need replacement, and he now accepts that he needs to ride in a cart for most of his round. Twice this year he has withdrawn from tournaments because he could barely get out of a cart.

The adverse reactions he had to medication he took earlier this year have been eliminated and a couple of weeks ago he was told that wearing electronic stimulation knee braces while sleeping will help ease the pain. He expects to get the devices by the end of the month.

"To win this tournament after all I've been through, I just can't explain it," said Eaks, whose average finish in his previous four tournaments was 33rd. "Even hurt I love this game, and I don't want to quit."

A calm day and soft greens following Saturday's 1 1/2 inches of rain continued to let players shoot directly at the pin. Thirty-four players broke 70 Sunday.

Starting at 16 under, Eaks birdied No. 2 and eagled No. 3 to go up by six shots, but a pair of additional front side birdies were offset by bogeys leaving him at minus-19 midway through his round, three shots ahead of Jones.

"Gene Jones just kept putting the pressure on me. It was a lot of fun being pressed like that," he said. "That's the most fun I've had playing golf in a long time."

Jones said: "He played good for two days. He made a whole lot of putts."

Those shots were made with a putter that Eaks first used on Friday.

Since his regular putter disappeared two years ago, Eaks struggled on the greens. This week Fisher Golf found some of the old-style putters in their back room. Seven of them were in Eaks' locker Friday.

"I pulled two of them out and they were identical," Eaks said. "It was like they were back home again. That more than anything is probably why I won this tournament. I've got them under lock and key." Eaks had 80 putts during the three rounds.

Ron Streck (70) finished at 15 under, and Mike Goodes (66), Tom Kite (65) and Rod Spittle (65) finished at 14 under. Jones, Goodes and Spittle were Monday qualifiers.

Loren Roberts, who started the day three shots back, shot a 72 and finished 10 shots back. His nine previous rounds were each in the 60s.

Defending champion D.A. Weibring shot 68 in the final round to finish at 11 under. No champion has defended his title in the event's 16-year history.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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