2001: PGA Tour - Victory affirms Verplank as worthy pick

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Montreal

If Curtis Strange were looking for validation for being the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain to pick a rookie for the team, Scott Verplank provided it – in Canada.

Three weeks after Strange chose Verplank for the matches at The Belfry, the 37-year-old former Oklahoma State star captured the Bell Canadian Open Sept. 9 at the Royal Montreal Golf Club.

“Obviously, I’m playing OK,” Verplank said after surviving a few scary moments. “Not that it really matters to me, but maybe to everybody else it makes Curtis look a little smarter than he was.”

Beside earning vindication for Strange, Verplank pocketed $684,000 for himself. “If I play like this at The Belfry (Sept. 28-30), then he’s going to look a whole lot smarter.”

Some considered the choice of Verplank questionable, especially considering that his only previous victory in the last 13 years came in a tournament (Reno-Tahoe Open) held opposite a World Golf Championship event.

Plus, Verplank was chosen over three players who finished ahead of him in the point standings, starting with Ryder Cup standout Tom Lehman.

Verplank never felt like he owed anyone an explanation. If he changes his mind, he can always show them his trophy from golf’s third-oldest national championship. Verplank’s victory was punctuated by a 25-foot par putt on the final hole, capping a 3-under 67 for a three-stroke victory at 14 under par.

“I’m sure Scott was probably somewhat motivated if he was hearing some of that criticism,” said Bob Estes, who finished tied for second with Joey Sindelar and earned $334,000. “Scott’s going to get it done. He’s pretty much always gotten it done. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that he won this week.”

Said Verplank: “I didn’t lobby for a pick. I really don’t care about all that stuff. But I guess if all those people are really worried about it, maybe today will help them sleep better at night.”

It was the fourth victory of a career that held so much promise when Verplank won the 1984 U.S. Amateur, won the PGA Tour’s Western Open a year later while still in college, then won the NCAA title in 1986 in his final year at Oklahoma State.

His first professional victory followed in 1988, but he went 12 years and three elbow surgeries before he won again last year at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

“There have been all kinds of ups and mainly downs,” he said. “That was a thrill to win last year. This year is more of a relief.”

The tournament also provided relief to Sindelar, who guaranteed himself his card after finishing 126th on the money list last year.

John Daly, who finished fourth at 10 under, continued his resurgence by overpowering Royal Montreal with drives that were long and straight. Daly nearly drove the green on four par 4s and made bogey only when he opted to leave his driver in the bag.

Defending champion Tiger Woods wasn’t able to exploit his prodigious length, however, closing with a 69 to finish 10 strokes behind in a tie for 23rd.

– From staff and wire reports

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