Allenby Beats Price at Western Open

Monday, July 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LEMONT, Ill. (AP) — As he walked the course at the Western Open, Robert Allenby was called everything from Stuart to Bill to John. Everything, it seemed, but Robert.

Stuart makes some sense because he and fellow Australian Stuart Appleby are both tall, blonde and sort of look alike. Similar-sounding last names, too. But Bill and John? Now that's a stretch.

``The whole time I was thinking, `I've got to win because that way they'll see that it's Robert. It's not Stuart. It's not Steve. It's not Bill and it's not John,''' Allenby said. ``But I completely understand where they're coming from. I haven't been over here long enough for them to know me. I'm trying to make sure that they get to know me.''

Beating Nick Price on the first hole of a playoff Sunday is a good start. By tapping in a 2-foot par putt, Allenby won his second PGA Tour title.

He won the Houston Open in April by beating Craig Stadler on the fourth playoff hole. Counting his years on the Australasian and European tours, Allenby is six-for-six in playoffs.

``A win's a win,'' he said. ``I really don't care how I get it.''

Allenby won $540,000 with the victory. Price, who was going for his third Western Open title and first tour victory since 1998, won $324,000.

``A little disappointed, basically, giving it to Robert on a platter there,'' Price said.

After seven birdies in 10 holes, Allenby blew a two-stroke lead with bogeys on the 16th and 18th, and Price tied him at 14-under 274 after regulation.

They went back to the 18th tee to start the playoff, and Price got in trouble right away, dumping his tee shot into a bunker on the right side of the fairway. With a cluster of trees blocking a straight shot to the green, Price had no choice but to lay up and waste a stroke.

``That's just probably the worst place I could have hit it,'' he said. ``Probably the worst place I could have hit it was out of bounds, but hitting it into the right-hand bunker was just death.''

With Allenby on the green in two, Price needed to put his third shot close to the pin. Instead, it hit the green and rolled off, stopping in the rough about 18 feet from the hole.

Allenby had missed an 18-foot birdie putt but tapped in for par, so Price had no choice but to hole his chip shot to force a second playoff hole. He came within a few inches, but his ball rolled right on by to make Allenby the champion.

It was the second time a playoff has cost Price a Western Open title. Tom Kite won the 1986 tournament on the first extra hole of a playoff with Price, Fred Couples and David Frost.

``At the start of the year, I said to my coach, 'I know I can win. There's no doubt in my mind that I can win. It's just a matter of finding how to win,''' said Allenby, who's playing only his second full season on the PGA Tour.

``I said if I could win this year, that would be fantastic. But to win twice and have a second, that's just awesome. It's just great.''

Greg Kraft, Shigeki Maruyama and Jim Furyk tied for third at 12-under 276. Tiger Woods, playing his first tournament since his amazing 15-stroke victory in the U.S. Open, never got his putter going and finished seven strokes back at 7-under 281.

It was his worst finish since a tie for 37th in the Sprint International last August. Coincidentally, that finish came a week after he won the PGA Championship, his second major.

``He's the best,'' Allenby said. ``If you can ever have the chance to beat the best, you grasp at that opportunity. To win when he's in the field, it's an awesome feeling because he doesn't lose too many tournaments. These days, anyway.''

There was a time Allenby, who turns 29 on Wednesday, wondered if he would ever win again. He showed promise on the Australasian and European tours in the early 1990s, winning six titles from 1992-95, and was third on the European money list in 1996.

But a car accident in Spain in October 1996 ended his season early and temporarily derailed his career. He doesn't like talking about the crash, in which he suffered a cracked sternum, saying that part of his life has passed.

``After the first two years, I never thought I was going to win again,'' he said. ``And believe me, to win twice this year is a great feeling.''

Divots: Woods hit a spectator with his second shot on the par-5 No. 5, opening a small gash on the right side of William Fick's face near the bridge of the nose. Woods apologized to Fick, shook his hand twice and gave him a ball. ... Total attendance for the week was 188,980, topping last year's crowd of 188,980. ... Lee Janzen, who began the day one stroke off the lead, shot a 75 to finish five strokes back.