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Sutherland richer, better-known after match play win

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) _ Kevin Sutherland walked away from the Match Play Championship with a feeling he never had before, not to mention $1 million and his first career victory.

``It's phenomenal,'' Sutherland said after beating boyhood friend Scott McCarron 1-up over 36 holes Sunday at La Costa.

``Next to winning a major, the World Golf Championship events are right there. This has 64 of the best players in the world. It makes it even more special to beat some of the best.''

Sutherland had never won a PGA Tour event, let alone a major, and came into this tournament seeded 62nd. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval _ the top three _ didn't even make it out of Wednesday's first round.

Sutherland was the first player to make a WGC event his first career victory.

``He just put himself on the map,'' McCarron said. ``We all know on tour he was a great player for the last couple of years, but the world didn't know it yet. Now they do.''

Sutherland and McCarron embraced on the 18th green, two friends born a year apart in Sacramento who have played with each other at every level. Their last match was 20 years ago in the San Joaquin Sectionals in high school, which Sutherland won with a string of birdies on the back nine.

On Sunday, Sutherland's driving was erratic, and par got him through.

Sutherland holed a 5-footer on the par-3 14th to even the match, another 5-footer for par on the 15th hole to take his first lead of the day, and another on No. 16, getting up-and-down from the bunker and staying ahead when McCarron missed a birdie from 12 feet.

``All of a sudden, I was leading,'' Sutherland said. ``I'm like, 'Wow! I've got a really good chance here.'''

He took advantage in typical fashion _ missing fairways, making pars.

It looked like the match would go extra holes when Sutherland missed his 18th fairway of the 36-hole match and put his approach into the bunker. He blasted out to within a foot for his 30th par of the day.

``All day long, I'm in total survival mode, just trying to get to the next hole and not hurt anybody while I'm doing it,'' Sutherland said.

``I always knew I could win,'' Sutherland said. ``Now I know I can win.''

It was a bitter loss for McCarron, whose long-handled putter failed him for the second week in a row. Needing an 8-foot birdie putt on the 36th hole to extend the match, the ball caught the left lip, and McCarron turned away in shock.

``I felt like I played a lot better and I should have won,'' said McCarron, who never trailed until missing a 6-foot par putt on the 33rd hole. ``He was a buzz saw out there. He was an absolute rock marking pars.''

A week ago, McCarron missed 6-foot putts on the each of the final three holes to finish one stroke behind at the Nissan Open.

McCarron earned $550,000 in his first WGC event.

Sutherland trailed on only 11 of 86 holes going into the final round, but found himself behind throughout most of the 36-hole final.

``I almost gave up on the fact I was ever going to hit a fairway,'' he said. ``It was like, which side would be better? What rough would be better to be in?''

Sutherland fought his swing early on, missing eight consecutive fairways.

After he pulled his drive into the rough on No. 13, McCarron said to him, ``Are you ever going to hit a fairway?'' He playfully slugged Sutherland in the arm, and both players started laughing.

``I know we played a match in high school,'' Sutherland replied. ``I feel like I'm still in high school right now.''

Through all the small talk, the match was close from start to finish.

Even though Sutherland trailed throughout the morning round, he never went more than two holes before squaring the match, and it was tied after the first 18 holes.

The match turned on the par-5 ninth hole in the afternoon, when McCarron split the middle and was positioned to go for the green. Sutherland went right behind a tree, then hooked it around the tree, down a cart path and behind a smaller tree.

He hit a low wedge to 5 feet for birdie. McCarron missed the green left, chipped to 12 feet and two-putted for par.

``Instead of falling out of touch with Scott, I'm right back in the tournament.''

Brad Faxon won the consolation match and $450,000 when Paul Azinger bogeyed the 18th hole, then made bogey on the first extra hole. Azinger earned $360,000.
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