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Purdy finally figures out how to win

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Ted Purdy sat next to tournament host Byron Nelson in a sky box, reveling in a PGA Tour victory he expected long before his ninth season as a professional.

As an All-American at Arizona, he once beat Tiger Woods by six shots to win a college tournament. His swing is compact and repeats itself well. But while his peers were succeeding in the big leagues, Purdy was laboring on the Asian Tour trying to figure out how to win.

``I think I had about 10 years of underachieving,'' he said. ``Tiger said, `Ted, you used to beat my brains in.'''

But on Sunday in the Byron Nelson Championship, the 31-year-old Purdy beat them all.

Woods wasn't even around, having missed the cut for the first time in seven years and 142 tournaments. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson stumbled along the way. Vijay Singh showed up too late, closing in style with an ace on the 17th hole and a birdie on the 18th for a 65 to tie for third.

While everyone talked about the Big Five, Purdy was No. 173 in the world ranking coming in.

He played away from the flags, picked up a pair of long birdie putts and otherwise played flawless golf, putting for birdie on every hole and closing with a 5-under 65 for a one-shot victory over Sean O'Hair.

``It just tells you how good the players out here are,'' Purdy said. ``I mean, Vijay is just playing unbelievable. But I beat him. It's just euphoric. It's great.''

Taking down O'Hair was no small task.

The 22-year-old rookie had the pressure of a one-shot lead and the scrutiny of a background that defies belief _ pushed by a father to turn pro a year before he got out of high school, treated like a mere commodity, forced to run a mile for every bogey he had on his card.

O'Hair broke away from his father two years ago and married a woman who brought perspective to his life. He is polished and polite, but showed that his game can stand up just fine to Sunday pressure.

Despite losing his one-shot lead on the third hole, and losing it for good with a sloppy bogey on the eighth, O'Hair never lost hope until he found himself with too much ground to make up. Still, he finished with two birdies on his last three holes, including a 15-footer on the 18th, for a 68 to finish one stroke behind.

``I played my guts out today,'' O'Hair said. ``Now that I've got a taste of this, my feelings are, `Let's go win a few tournaments.' I'm not going to put a bunch of pressure on myself after this week. I played great. I'm just going to work my butt off and hopefully, I'll be in this situation a lot more.''

The consolation prize was $669,000 for his runner-up finish, putting him at No. 32 on the money list and assuring that the Q-school grad will keep his card for next year. He's the highest-ranked rookie on the money list.

``I thought it was going to take me longer than this to get comfortable out here,'' O'Hair said.

His mother and sister flew in from Florida to watch the final round. The only one missing was his father, Marc O'Hair, with whom Sean hasn't spoken in nearly two years.

He prefers not to rehash their past.

``I love my dad and I ... hope he's doing well,'' O'Hair said. ``That's all I have to say about that.''

Purdy's past only includes the scars of losing.

He had two close calls last year, blowing a four-shot lead at the MCI Heritage before losing to Stewart Cink in a five-hole playoff, then missing a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the B.C. Open that would have gotten him into a playoff with Jonathan Byrd.

``I don't think I would have been able to pull it off today without having those previous failures,'' Purdy said. ``I was trying to win so badly. At MCI, I really didn't hit a good shot until I was out of the lead. At the B.C. Open, it was the same thing. When I lost the lead, I started hitting good golf shots again.''

This was different.

``I can't remember a shot I missed,'' Purdy said. ``I really can't.''

The only green he missed was on the 14th, and it was just over the back, leaving Purdy a 30-foot birdie putt that he nearly made. He made enough of them though, none bigger than the 30-footer on No. 8 that gave him the lead for good.

He clinched it with a 5-iron from 220 yards up the hill to the par-5 16th green, leaving him a two-putt birdie to build a three-shot lead. Two groups behind him, O'Hair hit a 9-iron that landed on the fringe at No. 14 and hopped into a bunker, leaving him a difficult shot.

O'Hair blasted to 15 feet and missed the par putt, putting him too far behind.

Still, the road ahead is looking good.
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