From Big Wiesy to Big Easy
by Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) ? Ernie Els had every reason to believe destiny was on his side.
He was in a playoff in the Sony Open for the second straight time. Just like last year, it looked as if it would end on the second extra hole. But when a simple birdie putt slid by the cup, he realized he needed something more.
"I told myself on the next tee to win the tournament, instead of waiting for someone to give it to you," he said.
Els holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to hold off an impressive bid by Harrison Frazar and become the first back-to-back winner in the Sony Open in 17 years.
"A playoff in the Sony - it's working out fine for me," said Els, the first player since Nick Faldo in the Masters (1989-90) to win the same event two straight years in playoffs.
Frazar is 0-for-161 on the PGA Tour, but left Waialae with no regrets.
"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.
Els, who holed a 55-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 10 to beat Aaron Baddeley last year on the second extra hole, figured it would end there again.
He had 10 feet for birdie, while Frazar missed the green left and came up short on his chip, leaving himself 15 feet for par. As he had done all day, Frazar didn't go down without a fight. He made the putt to extend the playoff.
Els made sure it didn't go any longer.
He had the same line on the par-3 11th earlier in the round, making a 10-footer for par. When the birdie putt disappeared, he threw his hands in the air and looked to the darkening, cloudy skies in relief.
"Nothing comes easy," the Big Easy said.
The last time he 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 now heads overseas to play in Thailand and Australia, not returning to the United States until late February or the middle of March.
The last repeat winner at the Sony Open was Corey Pavin (1986-87).
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 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 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.
There was one other small piece of drama on the 18th.
Paul Azinger had a 4-foot birdie putt that would put him at 11 under par - and knock Vijay Singh, one of his best friends, out of the top 10 for the first time since the PGA Championship in August.
Azinger missed, and Singh (66) wound up with his 10th consecutive top-10 finish.
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 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. And while both players opened with five straight pars, Frazar had every reason to get down on himself.
A one-shot lead turned into a two-shot deficit late on the front nine, but Frazar rallied with four straight birdies to regain a share of the lead.
Els appeared to put him away again by chipping in on No. 13 and nearly holing out from the 14th fairway.
Frazar battled to the end, forcing Els to beat him with a long birdie putt on the 21st hole of the day.