2005: Irishman Smyth garners green at SBC

Santa Clarita, Calif.

Irish eyes were smiling on pro golf March 13.

Only a couple of hours after Padraig Harrington won his first PGA Tour event at the Honda Classic in Florida, Des Smyth was putting the finishing touches on his first Champions Tour triumph across the country.

Smyth, 52, closed with a final-round, 4-under 68 to hold off D.A. Weibring and Mark McNulty for the SBC Classic title and $232,500. Smyth finished at 5-under 211, and was one of only nine players to better par for 54 holes. McNulty missed a 20-foot putt on the final hole to tie Smyth.

“I thought Mark was going to make that putt,” said Smyth, who joined the Champions Tour in 2003 after winning medalist honors at the 2002 Qualifying School. “But I’m certainly happy I didn’t have to go into a playoff with him.”

Smyth, the oldest winner in PGA European Tour history when he took the 2001 Madeira Island Open at 48 years, 1 month and 4 days, said he was excited about the victory.

“This is really a big deal for me,” Smyth said. “This puts me in the Legends and the MasterCard, and also gives me a boost in the Charles Schwab Cup. I’m in my third season out here now and it really sets things up for me.”

In 53 Champions Tour events, Smyth has 16 top-10 finishes and 34 top-25 finishes. In his over-50 circuit debut, Smyth tied for second at the 2003 Ace Group Classic – one of 10 top 10s in 23 events. In 2004, he slipped from No. 18 in earnings to No. 35 after only four top 10s in 27 events.

On Sunday, Smyth noted the victory by countryman Harrington.

“We’re all very happy about Padraig’s win today, too,” Smyth said. “He’s our next big hope to become a major champion. We haven’t had an Irishman win a major championship since Fred Daly in the Henry Cotton days.”

Daly won the British Open in 1947.

Smyth felt all along he had a chance to win.

“The course was set up so that nobody was going to run away,” he said. “I knew the leaders would be under a lot of pressure and I thought I could sneak up on them.

I really feel like I kind of stole it.”

Second-round leader Keith Fergus bogeyed three of the first five holes and was never a factor en route to a final-round 77. Fergus, who was seeking his first Champions Tour triumph, tied for sixth at 214. Fergus, former golf coach at the University of Houston (1988-94), hasn’t won since the Nike Tour’s 1994 Boise Open. He won three PGA Tour titles.

Fergus has two top 10s in 22 Champions Tour events. His best finish (fourth) came a year ago at the Toshiba Senior Classic, which is being played this week.

– Staff and wire reports

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