2006: Lumpy’s burden lifted

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FORT WORTH, Texas

Tim Herron wishes he would have made it easier on himself. But after waiting seven years for another victory on the PGA Tour, what was two more holes?

“I guess I made it more fun for the viewers, and kept them tuned in,” Herron said.

So seven years ran into “60 Minutes.” No big deal. Herron didn’t really enjoy the suspenseful ending at the Bank of America Colonial May 21, at least not until he made a 10-foot birdie putt on the the second playoff hole to defeat Richard S. Johnson.

Herron, the player affectionately known as “Lumpy,” led throughout the final round before scrambling at the end. He needed clutch par-saving putts on the last two holes of regulation after a bogey at the 188-yard 16th, then weathered the playoff before collecting his first victory since Bay Hill in 1999.

“It went right in the middle. I couldn’t believe it,” Herron said of his clinching birdie putt at the par-4 17th, his 20th hole of the day.

“It’s been a long time. I didn’t know if it would ever come.”

Johnson, who had three-putted the 16th hole in regulation, birdied his next two holes to close Herron’s three-stroke gap.

Herron (2-under 68) and Johnson (67) finished 72 holes knotted at 12-under 268.

Both hit long drives but mediocre approaches and settled for two-putt pars on the first playoff hole, the 433-yard 18th. They then went to

No. 17, where Johnson’s approach settled 25 feet short of the hole.

It was the first time since 1994 that extra holes were needed at Hogan’s Alley. Herron got the winner’s plaid jacket and $1.08 million – more than what he made for his three previous victories combined.

Yes, it had been a while – 205 starts, to be exact.

“It almost feels like a first win,” said Herron, who now owns four PGA Tour victories and surged past $13 million in career earnings.

Herron entered the final round tied with Australia’s Rodney Pampling, who was trying to repeat the Bay Hill-Colonial double Kenny Perry pulled off a year ago. Johnson was seeking his first PGA Tour victory, and in a matter of minutes down the stretch, went from seemingly out of the picture to teetering on the edge of victory.

“When I three-putted 16, I thought it was pretty much over,” said Johnson, the 29-year-old former skateboarder from Sweden whose best PGA Tour finish had been a tie for third in Memphis three years ago.

But he rolled in a 28-foot birdie putt at No. 17 to get to 11 under about the same time Herron was making bogey on the hole behind him. Shortly before standing over a 12-footer for par at 17, Herron heard a roar up ahead.

It was for Johnson, who converted a 5-footer to get to 12 under. Herron made his putt to stay at 12 under.

“It’s never easy,” the 36-year-old Herron said. “It looked like I had a two-stroke lead going into 16, and I hit a terrible shot. Now I’m grinding again.”

Pampling shot 63 in the second round, but never regained the hot touch, and his 70-70 finish left him alone in third at 10 under.

Herron’s victory caps off what has been a crazy few months. He and his wife, Ann, welcomed twins in November – Patrick John and Mick Henry – then made the move home to Deephaven, Minn., from Phoenix. Needless to say, golf conditions in Minnesota aren’t quite what they are in Arizona in the winter months, so Herron started the 2006 season without much tuning up.

At Colonial, he also reunited with caddie Scott Steele. The two had worked together for seven years before going separate ways last autumn.

“He believes in me,” said Herron, “and he probably believes in me more than I believe in me. That’s good. I have a guy in my corner.”

Last week in Fort Worth, Herron showed enough mettle to make both men believers.

After his winning putt vanished, he held his head in his hands, then looked toward the sky.

“I let it slip,” said Herron. “But I hung in there, and that’s probably why I kind of looked up, and I couldn’t believe it. Because it’s been seven years and a long time, and I just didn’t know if it was going to come.”

– Staff and wire reports

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