Axley wins Texas Open for first PGA Tour title

Monday, September 25th 2006, 6:14 am
By: News On 6

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ It took Eric Axley nine years after he turned pro to win on the PGA Tour. It doesn't look like it will take Anthony Kim nearly that long.

Axley, a left-hander living in Knoxville, Tenn., won the Texas Open for his first PGA Tour title Sunday, closing with a 1-over 71 for a three-stroke victory.

The 32-year-old Axley had a stretch of 53 consecutive holes without a bogey or worse on the par-70 Resort Course at LaCantera Golf Club. The string ended with a double bogey on the 14th and he went on to finish at 15-under 265.

Three players finished at 12 under, including the 21-year-old Kim. Playing in his first PGA Tour event with a sponsor's exemption, Kim shot a 65 to tie for second with Dean Wilson (69) and first-round leader Justin Rose (68).

Kim, from La Quinta, Calif., skipped his senior year at Oklahoma and played in two events on the Nationwide Tour with a best finish of 57th.

``I've never been that great at school, to be honest,'' Kim said. ``But I felt like my game was ready. I feel if I play well I can play with anybody.''

Kim was runner-up at the U.S. Public Links Championship this year. He was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma and was a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team last year.

Kim earned $298,666 and has an exemption into the PGA Tour's Southern Farm Bureau Classic this week in Madison, Miss.

Axley earned $720,000 to push his season total to $924,029.

He led by four shots to start the day, and built a six-shot lead heading into the back nine. But the double bogey on 14 after he drove into the trees cut it briefly to two. It's a 543-yard, par 5 reachable in two shots.

``I didn't stick to my game plan. I got aggressive, and I paid for it,'' Axley said. ``It was just a bad decision. It wasn't a driver hole for me today. I just wanted to play one shot at a time and keep it in the fairway.''

After a bogey on No. 17, Axley landed a 143-yard approach shot 4 feet away at No. 18. He sank the birdie putt and got an enthusiastic hug from wife Cortney.

``It's hard to win on any tour,'' Axley said. ``I know a lot of this hasn't hit me yet. But, yeah, it's cool.''

After winning on the Nationwide Tour last year, Axley's best finishes this year had been a pair of 24th-place ties in Tucson and the B.C. Open.

Axley built a comfortable lead on his fourth hole of the day. He went to the No. 4 tee with a three-shot lead and left the green with a six-shot margin.

He found his first fairway of the day with a tee shot to the left side of the 434-yard hole. He landed his approach on the green and was left with a 27-foot putt.

He waited while his closest competitor, Frank Lickliter II, blasted from a green-side bunker. But Lickliter hit to a part of the green that sloped back to the fairway, and his ball rolled at least 20 feet off the putting surface.

He double-bogeyed, and Axley made his 27-footer for a birdie and a commanding six-shot advantage.

``It was a shock to me what happened to Frank,'' Axley said, ``and I hit what I thought was my best putt of the week.''