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Els makes it hard on himself at Sony
by Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) ? Ernie Els watched a 4-foot par putt slide by the hole and knew it was going to haunt him. This being the Sony Open, he should have known how it was going to end.

Despite wasting a two-shot lead with four holes to play, Els wound up in a familiar position Sunday.

He wore the same green shirt, had a lei around his neck and the trophy at his side.

"A playoff at the Sony ... it's working out for me," Els said.

The Big Easy had to work extra hard for this one, holing a 30-foot (9-meter) birdie putt on the third playoff hole to defeat Harrison Frazar and become the first repeat winner of the Sony Open since Corey Pavin in 1987.

He also became the first player since Nick Faldo in the Masters (1989-90) to win the same tournament back-to-back in a playoff.

A year ago, he beat Aaron Baddeley on the second extra hole with a 55-foot (16.5-meter) putt from the fringe at No. 10. Els figured destiny was on his side when he reached the same green.

Frazar was in trouble to the left, took three shots to reach the green and had 15 feet (4.5 meters) for par. Els played it safe and hit a sand wedge into 10 feet (3 meters) for birdie.

"I really didn't think he was going to make that, and he just bombed it right in the middle," Els said. "I guess I was taken aback. I was hoping for two putts (for the win). But nothing comes easy. I told myself on the next tee to win the tournament, instead of waiting for someone to give it to you."

Els did just that, making the long birdie and thrusting his arms in the air - more out of relief than celebration.

"I felt the tournament was slipping away," he said.

It was a difficult loss for Frazar, a 32-year-old Texan who is 0-for-161 on the PGA Tour.

This was his best chance at winning, and he gave it his best shot.

"I had a one-shot lead and shot 4 under on a pretty tough golf course," Frazar said. "Most of the time, that's going to be good enough. I just got beat."

Frazar closed with two straight birdies for a 66. Both players finished at 18-under 262.

Els, who has shot every round in the 60s at Waialae since he started playing the Sony Open four years ago, holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 65 that forced the playoff.

Both made pars on No. 18 in the playoff.

Frazar scrambled for an unlikely par on No. 10 to keep the playoff going.

Els made sure it didn't go any longer.

The last time Els was in a playoff was November in the Presidents Cup, head-to-head with Tiger Woods over three dramatic holes until darkness led to a tie.

Els got to finish this one off - plus, he got paid.

He earned $864,000 for his 13th career PGA Tour victory, and heads overseas to play in Thailand and Australia, not returning to the United States until late February or the middle of March.

He didn't win both Hawaii events like he did a year ago, but he feels his game is in the same position.

Els finally shook off the rust from spending a month on the beach in South Africa during the holidays. Getting rid of Frazar was tougher.

"Harrison, what a day," Els said. "He really hung in there."

Frazar twice rallied from two-shot deficits, a strong performance considering their experience - Els a three-time major champion with 46 victories worldwide, Frazar in his seventh season on the PGA Tour without a single victory.

The Big Easy appeared to have this wrapped up when he had a two-stroke lead and a 30-foot (9-meter) birdie putt on the 15th, while Frazar overshot the green into thick rough.

That's where it all turned around.

Frazar hit a beautiful chip to save par, and Els three-putted for bogey. Two holes later, Frazar caught him with a 20-foot (6-meter) birdie on the par-3 17th, and Els had to rally just to force extra holes.

"I knew I made a big mistake," Els said. "It was a good feeling to make the putt (on No. 18), because I felt the tournament was slipping away from me."

Davis Love III was briefly tied for the lead at 13 under when he made the turn, but went six holes before his next birdie and fell out of the race. He closed with a 67 to finish third at 15-under 265.

The Sony Open lost some of its buzz when 14-year-old Michelle Wie went home after a 68 on Friday to miss the cut by one shot. Els and Frazar brought it back to life with a terrific duel.

It was the third time Frazar had the lead going into the final round. He finished fourth in the '98 Colonial, and tied for third last year in the Phoenix Open when Vijay Singh shot a 63 in the final round.

The lesson from Phoenix was to not "sit back and watch what somebody else is doing."

He could have easily fallen into that trap on a cloudy afternoon at Waialae, playing with the defending champion.

Frazar made four straight birdies to overcome a two-shot deficit around the turn, and rallied from another deficit with birdies on his final two holes.

"I went toe-to-toe with Ernie, who is No. 3 in the world, for a better part of 3 1/2 hours," he said. "It hurts, but there's a lot of positives to take from it."


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