LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida, AP
On a day when Steve Flesch played well enough to beat Tiger Woods, Duffy Waldorf was even better. He blew past both of them Sunday with a career-low 62 to win the National Car Rental Classic at Disney. Playing in the threesome behind Flesch and Woods and six strokes behind Flesch to start the day, Waldorf birdied six of his first seven holes to zoom into contention, then turned back a late bid from Flesch by holing a 12 foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a one-stroke victory. “Obviously, it”s a surprise to me,” Waldorf said after his fourth career victory, and first this year. “Today, I got everything I could out of the round.” His 10-under 62 in calm, sticky conditions was the lowest final round by a winner on the PGA Tour this year.
His 26-under 262 tied the tournament record set by John Huston in 1992, when three courses were used in the rotation. He also tied Larry Nelson in 1987 for the largest final-round comeback at Disney and matched the biggest comeback on tour this year, by Phil Mickelson at Colonial. Waldorf earned US$540,000, the largest paycheck of his career. Flesch, trying to go wire-to-wire for his first victory in 94 starts, had a 69 and matched Woods for the second straight day. He made two key putts on the back nine, a 12-footer on No. 13 to pull into a tie with Waldorf and a 10-footer on the 17th to again share the lead. From the middle of the 18th fairway, he heard the roar as Waldorf sank his 10th birdie putt of the day. Flesch calmly hit his approach into 7 feet, but his birdie putt to force a playoff stayed high of the hole. “I knew what I had to do,” Flesch said.
“I just couldn”t get it to go. I figured somebody might come from behind because Tiger and I weren”t playing that good.”” Woods finally made his first bogey in 110 holes with a three-putt from 35 feet on the par-3 sixth.
And when Waldorf sank his winning putt, that ended Woods” streak of three straight victories. He finished with a 69, three strokes back alone in third. Still, he has finished in the top 3 in 13 of his 18 tournaments this year. Woods fought the one flaw he has in his game — getting stuck on his downswing, which usually sends the ball off to the right. A 20-foot putt on the 16th that would have brought him to within one of the lead hung on the edge of the cup. His 10-footer on the last also caught the lip, and Woods could do nothing but smile. “It was one of those days where I didn”t have much,” he said. “But I hung in there and gave myself a chance.” If nothing else, Woods proved to be a prophet. Hounded by questions about a Sunday duel with Flesch, he kept reminding anyone who would listen that other players were still a factor if conditions were calm. He said Saturday afternoon: “Anyone can shoot 62 out here without batting an eye.” OK, so Waldorf batted his eyes. He made the turn in 30 and was just one off the lead. As Flesch cleaned up a two-putt from 8 feet on the 11th for par, he heard a cheer across the pond and saw Waldorf in a familiar position — reaching down to pluck the ball from the cup, waving to the crowd. “That”s the first time I started looking at the (leader) boards,” Flesch said. It was the first time all weekend Flesch no longer had the lead. Waldorf again took the lead with a 3-foot birdie putt on the 15th, then escaped trouble on the 17th by hitting around the trees on his approach and two-putting from 35 feet.