Golfer Michael Clark Wins Deere


Tuesday, August 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Michael Clark won his first PGA tournament, a deer he can display in his house and a Deere for his yard.

He collected all three, plus a $468,000 paycheck, on Monday when he became the sixth first-time winner this season by rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole to beat veteran Kirk Triplett in the rain-delayed John Deere Classic.

Clark, an avid hunter, plans to prominently display the trophy — which features a statue of a running deer — in the new house he and his wife recently bought in Dalton, Ga. That is, assuming it passes muster with his wife, Ryndee. Clark said she hid his mounted 10-point deer head in a closet when they moved.

``I saw that trophy at the beginning of the week and I said, 'They've got a nice buck on there. That would look nice on my mantle,''' Clark said.

A self-described ``good old boy,'' Clark finished 11th in Q-school last November to get his tour card. The win earned him a two-year PGA Tour exemption.

Tournament sponsor Deere & Co. also threw in one of its green-and-yellow lawn tractors, something Clark said he's wanted for a while. Part of his paycheck might go for more equipment.

``Now I can get a front-end loader. ... I can get all the things I want. I'm dead serious,'' said Clark, whose best previous finish this season was a tie for 13th at the Compaq Classic in New Orleans.

In a final round suspended Sunday because of heavy rain, Clark shot a 4-under 67, but Triplett birdied the final hole of regulation to force the tie in a tournament-record 19-under 265. Triplett, whose victory in the Nissan Open this year was his career first, had a final-round 70.

Both players twice made birdies to keep the playoff going. Triplett earned $280,000 of the $2.6 million purse, helping his bid to make the Presidents Cup team in October.

Triplett, who was 2 over in nine holes before thunderstorms suspended play Sunday, said the rain delay helped him. He said he played more aggressively Monday.

``It's not too often you get a second chance at the last round in the same tournament,'' he said. ``I just had good aggressive focus all day because I was always behind and I always needed to make birdie.''

Charles Howell, who turned pro last month after winning the NCAA championship at Oklahoma State, had a 66 and finished one stroke out of the playoff. He earned $176,800, boosting his yearly earnings high enough to earn a special tour exemption.

``This is more than I had expected this week,'' said Howell, who is still carrying his college bag.

Clark led by one when play was suspended and started getting himself mentally ready for the playoff when Triplett's final-hole approach wound up in birdie range. Clark said he relied on experience from losing a playoff on the old Nike Tour, now the Buy.Com Tour, in 1997.

``When I heard Triplett knocked it close, I more or less had given him the putt mentally and knew we were going to the playoff,'' he said.

Clark, who plans to play The International in Castle Rock, Colo., next weekend, said he hopes to collect another victory soon.

``I want more people to know who Mike Clark is instead of everybody this week going, 'Who?''' he said.