Pebble Beach, Calif.
Craig Stadler won his second consecutive tournament on the Champions Tour, and fourth overall in 2004, as he launched an awesome birdie assault against Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Stadler began The First Tee Open with a hard-fought 72 at the Bayonet Golf Course in nearby Seaside, Calif., but charged back with rounds of 63 and 66 at Pebble Beach.
Apparently his 129 total for 36 consecutive holes was a record at Pebble Beach, as no one was able to find a lower total for back-to-back rounds in any previous tournament played here.
Jay Haas finished second, three strokes behind Stadler’s winning total of 15-under-par 201. Ultimately the tournament became a two-man race, as Hale Irwin and Tom Kite tied for third, eight shots back of Stadler.
Stadler was 3 over par after eight holes Friday, and he was reeling.
“I absolutely was hitting it sideways,” Stadler said. ‘I was looking like I was going to shoot 80.
I thought I hit it OB (out of bounds) at 9, but the ball was in. I just hung in there. Suddenly I made four birdies in a row.”
In the second round, Stadler was 6 under after six holes. In the final round, Haas got within two strokes on the front nine before Stadler pulled away on the back.
“These last two rounds, I putted very well,” Stadler said. “I made everything I looked at.”
Well, not quite. Stadler actually missed a 3-foot birdie putt at 13 and a 5-foot birdie putt at 15. And he still shot 66.
“He is really playing with confidence,” said Haas, whose next stop is the Ryder Cup. “You can see it. He just looks like he’s going to hit a good shot, and he usually does.”
Stadler made six birdies and two eagles in the second round and seven birdies in the third, meaning that he birdied or eagled 15 of the final 36 holes at Pebble Beach.
In addition, Stadler paired with 16-year-old Aaron Woodard of Denver to win the 54-hole pro/junior competition (better ball) with a 22-under-par total. The tournament field consisted of 78 pros and 78 juniors, along with 156 other amateurs.
“I couldn’t really think of a better way to end an awesome week,” Woodard said. “I’m still really in shock. I don’t think it can get any better than this.”
Next up: SAS Championship, Sept. 24-26, Prestonwood Country Club, Cary, N.C. Defending champion: D.A. Weibring.