Stolz holds on to win first title
by Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Andre Stolz played like a veteran instead of a struggling rookie when it counted most Sunday, shooting a 5-under 67 to win the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas by a shot over Tom Lehman and two others.
Stolz two-putted from 45 feet on the final hole to win for the first time on the PGA Tour and turn what had been a dismal season into a triumphant success.
The Australian, who had made only $88,373 all year, made a crucial birdie putt on the 16th hole and then parred the last two holes to collect the $720,000 winner's check and gain a tour exemption for the next two years.
"It's pretty awesome," said Stolz, who didn't make a bogey in the final round. "I told my wife last night I had a feeling I was going to win."
Tag Ridings, who tied the course record with a final-round 61, tied for second along with Lehman (69) and Harrison Frazar (67).
Stolz, who missed 10 of 11 cuts at one point this season, including eight in a row, began the day a stroke off the lead held by Lehman and took it over himself with a 32 on the front nine.
He played steady on the back nine, making six straight pars before sinking a 10-footer for birdie on the par-5 16th for what would prove the winning margin.
Stolz, who rammed in a final 3-footer on the 18th hole, actually thought he made it to get into a playoff. Instead, he was the winner at 21 under.
"That's why I wasn't so excited when I was putting," he said. "I thought I had more work to do."
Stolz, who won on the Nationwide Tour last year and has won in Australia, moved his family to Florida this year to play the PGA Tour full time. He didn't have much success, with a tie for 34th in New Orleans his best finish before Sunday, but still believed he could win.
"With winning, it doesn't matter where you are," he said. "It's the same job."
Lehman, who played with the 34-year-old winner, said Stolz' experience on other tours helped keep him calm in the final round.
"He's not exactly a spring chicken first-timer," Lehman said. "He's been around the block a few times."
Lehman struggled with his long putter all day, but moved back into contention when he hit a 6-iron to 15 feet on the 16th hole and sunk the putt for eagle. That put him a shot behind Stolz, but Lehman gave a shot back when he missed a 4-footer for par on the next hole.
A birdie on the final hole put him at 20 under, but then Stolz calmly stroked in his final putt to win.
"The whole pattern of the day was do something good, do something bad," Lehman said. "The things I did well I did well. But there were too many mistakes."
Lehman was hoping to break a winless streak that dates to the 2000 Phoenix Open. He went back to the long putter to try and break out of a putting slump, but missed the crucial short putt on 17 and another earlier on the eighth hole.
The two misses were among the four bogeys Lehman made in his round on a course that generally plays among the easiest on the tour.
"You can't afford to make four bogeys on this golf course and expect to win," Lehman said.
Dicky Pride, who needed to win to keep his tour card next year, finished two shots back after a 69. Pride hit it into the rocks on the final hole for a bogey that ruined his chances.
"I had one choice. I had to win it," said Pride, who was 221st on the money list with $78,329. "I could finish in the top 10 the next three weeks and not keep my card. Let's face it, I've had a bad year." back with a double bogey on his 11th hole. Furyk has won three times in Las Vegas.