Verplank ends win drought

Monday, August 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RENO, Nev. – Scott Verplank has made it all the way back from the elbow problems that nearly ended his PGA Tour career.

Verplank won for the first time in 12 years Sunday, holing an 8-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole of a playoff with Jean Van de Velde in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

"I'm thrilled," said Verplank, 36, the former Oklahoma State star who won the 1985 Western Open to become the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour in 31 years.

"I had great promise coming out of college, winning on the PGA Tour as an amateur. I was a pretty good player, to tell you the truth.

"It's pretty hard to get hurt, then lose all your confidence and come back and be any good at all. That's the biggest thing about winning today."

Verplank won the 1998 World Cup of Golf, but his last tour win was the 1988 Buick Open. The 12-year span between victories is the fourth-longest drought in PGA Tour history.

After both players parred the first three playoff holes, Van de Velde drove into the rough on the par-5 17th, hit back into the fairway, and reached the green with a 225-yard shot.

The Frenchman ended up saving par with a 12-foot putt, but Verplank hit his third shot within 8 feet and holed the putt to claim his third tour title.

Van de Velde's adventures down the stretch were reminiscent of the 1999 British Open, where he squandered a three-stroke lead with a triple bogey on the final hole at Carnoustie and eventually lost to Paul Lawrie in a playoff.

Van de Velde played out of a hazard on the 15th hole for a bogey, then missed a 12-foot birdie putt that would have won the tournament on the last hole of regulation.

"I had plenty of chances out there today and didn't make any of them. It was a pretty dry day," Van de Velde said.

Verplank closed with a 5-under 67 and Van de Velde shot a 72 for 13-under 275 totals on the Montreux course.

Bob May, who lost a playoff to Tiger Woods last week in the PGA Championship, shot a 70 to finish a stroke back. He chipped in from 30 yards for an eagle on the par-5 14th.