2005: From pizzas to playoffs, Petrovic delivers

Avondale, La.

Tiger Woods and Tim Petrovic had little in common before last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Woods likes pizza. Petrovic used to work at a Pizza Hut. Petrovic loves “The Doors.” Woods has a habit of closing doors on opponents.

On May 1, with his back against the bayou, Petrovic took a page from Woods’ book when he outdueled Chris DiMarco on a PGA Tour Sunday to claim his first Tour title and create a link, however faint, between himself and the world’s top-ranked player.

Prior to his Zurich victory, Petrovic was 120th in the Official World Golf Ranking, 119 spots behind Woods. With a routine par on the first playoff hole at the TPC of Louisiana, Petrovic edged rookie James Driscoll to collect his first bottle cap in his 119th Tour start.

DiMarco – who led after the first and third rounds – made things easier on Petrovic when he hit into five bunkers coming down the stretch and shot a final-nine 39.

Three weeks removed from his playoff loss to Woods at the Masters, DiMarco’s 5-foot par putt at the 18th hole lipped out and he finished a shot behind Petrovic and Driscoll.

“You see it happen every week out here,” said Petrovic, who moved to 67th in the World Ranking. “You see somebody win every week. Most likely it is Vijay (Singh) or Tiger. Now that it’s happened, I wasn’t far away. I kept telling myself I wasn’t so far away.”

The 38-year-old journeyman’s pro career has featured more pep talks than an episode of “Dr. Phil.” There was the financial crisis in 1993 when his bank account ran dry after playing a handful of Nike Tour events.

“I had a sponsor pull out on me, I had no money, I ended up just going to work,” Petrovic said.

“I worked for the YMCA and then I went to work making pizzas for about five years. That’s washing floors and washing dishes, that’s not just making pizzas.”

Since earning his Tour card via the Nationwide Tour in 2002, things have perked up financially for Petrovic, but a victory remained elusive. There were runner-up showings at the FedEx in ’02 and a year later at the 84 Lumber Classic, but the winner’s circle continued to escape him.

“This is my first win since never, my first win ever,” Petrovic said. “I think I won – I think, was it ’01? It was ’01 or 2000. Let’s see, in ’01, I won four times on the Golden Bear Tour.”

It took Petrovic 23 holes Sunday to grab the $990,000 winner’s check. He finished the last four holes of the third round in the morning, shooting 6-under 66, then played the final round in 68 to match Driscoll at 13 under.

The former University of Hartford standout set up the breakthrough victory with a 19-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation, then finished off Driscoll with a routine par on the par-5 closing hole.

“I was proud of myself because I was able to clear my head and step up and just hit it,” Petrovic said. “I didn’t think about anything. I said, ‘Just hit it. You’ve made a million of these on the practice green. This one is a little harder, but it’s still a putt – just go out and hit it.”’

Driscoll, playing in the final group with DiMarco, shot 70. He missed a 4-foot birdie try for the victory on the final hole of regulation.

“It’s too bad,” said Driscoll, the 2000 U.S. Amateur runner-up. “I missed putts on the 18th hole back-to-back in the playoff and in regulation.”

DiMarco, who was making his first start since the Masters, began the final-round with a one-shot lead over Driscoll and padded his advantage with birdies at Nos. 2, 5 and 8.

But DiMarco’s troubles began on No. 10. He hit his second shot in a bunker 79 feet from the hole. Then

his 15-foot par putt rolled past the cup for a bogey that dropped him into a tie with Petrovic, playing a hole ahead of him. DiMarco’s bogeys at 15 and 18 dropped him out of the playoff picture.

“That first putt I hit for birdie (at No. 18) was the best one I hit all day,” said DiMarco, who tied for third with Lucas Glover (69) at 12 under. “I can’t believe it didn’t go in.”

DiMarco has six runner-up finishes since winning the 2002 Phoenix Open (his third Tour victory), including playoff losses in the past two majors to the top player in the world (2004 PGA Championship to Vijay Singh, Masters to Woods).

Add Petrovic’s name to the list of players who have denied DiMarco. But as officials handed him his oversized winner’s check, he quickly learned it may take a few more victories before his becomes a household name.

The check had been made out to “Tim Petrovich.”

– Staff and wire reports

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