2006: Putting tips ignite Kite

Snoqualmie, Wash.

Tom Kite has played enough golf to know that putting wins golf tournaments.

It was his putter that took him to the winner’s circle Aug. 20 at the Champions Tour’s Boeing Greater Seattle Open.

Kite birdied the first playoff hole at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge to edge Keith Fergus for the title.

Both finished at 15-under 201. Kite, who started the day three shots behind Don Pooley, closed with a 66, and Fergus shot 64.

With five holes to play, seven players were tied at 14 under. Kite then broke from the pack with a birdie on No. 15. At the same time, Fergus was finishing his round with a birdie on 18, just missing an eagle.

“I knew I had to keep rolling in birdies,” said Kite, who won his ninth Champions Tour title and third in a playoff. In March, Kite won the AT&T Classic.

After hitting his approach on No. 16 just 8 feet from the pin, Kite rolled in his third consecutive birdie to retake the lead at 16 under. But he three-putted from 65 feet on the par-3 17th for a bogey, falling back to 15 under. He closed with a par, missing his birdie attempt by 3 inches.

In the playoff on the par-5 18th hole, Fergus pulled his second shot, which hit a cart path and bounced into the grandstands. The shot landed in a spectator’s cap. Fergus took a drop, then chunked his third shot, hitting the cart path again. He eventually made bogey.

Kite, meanwhile, was in a back bunker in two and blasted to 3 feet and made the winning birdie.

For the week, Kite led the field in putting with a 24.0 average. Kite, who was 65th in putting coming into Seattle, needed only 21 putts in his second-round 64 that included 10 birdies.

Kite credited tips from Lee Trevino (playing the ball farther back) and Mark McNulty (grip adjustment) with his play on the greens.

“This is the best I’ve putted in a long, long time,” Kite told The Seattle Times after Saturday’s round. “I feel like I’m going to make every putt.”

On Sunday, he made the ones that counted.

Going low: The TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge didn’t see one 61, but two during the Boeing Greater Seattle Classic.

On Friday, Scott Simpson started the day tied for 43rd and turned in an 11-birdie 61 to jump to a tie for second. Simpson held the lead until Don Pooley moved to 12 under.

“I was hoping to shoot under par, and I didn’t know if I could even get in contention, being so far back,” Simpson said.

Simpson, who started on the back nine, had birdies at Nos. 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18 to turn in a tournament-record 7-under 29. He added birdies at Nos. 1, 3, 6, and 8.

With three holes remaining, Simpson needed three birdies to shoot a 59.

“I tried not to get ahead of myself and think about how low I was going,’’ Simpson added. “I felt I had nothing to lose so I tried to go for it. I missed a couple of putts there.’’

On Sunday, Tom Jenkins started the day tied for 39th and turned in a 61 behind nine birdies and an eagle. He had birdies at Nos. 10, 12, 13, 18 and an eagle at 15 before birdies at 1, 3, 5, 8, and 9.

“It was one of those days when everything flowed,” Jenkins told The Seattle Times. “It was like you step out of the way and it happens.”

Short shots: Next year’s Boeing Greater Seattle Classic will flip dates with the Jeld-Wen Tradition, according to The Seattle Times. The Greater Seattle Classic will be Aug. 24-26. . . . Chris Starkjohann, who has conditional status on the Champions Tour, withdrew from the PGA Championship at Medinah to play in Seattle. Starkjohann, who finished fifth at the PGA Professional National Championship to earn his Medinah spot, tied for 56th. Starkjohann got into the Seattle field after Dave Stockton withdrew. . . . Jeff Coston, who also qualified for the PGA (T-8 at the PGA Professional National Championship), opted for Seattle via a sponsor exemption. He tied for 44th. . . . Greg Norman has withdrawn from this week’s Jeld-Wen Tradition because of a scheduling conflict. . . . Kenny Knox, who turned 50 Aug. 15, made his Champions Tour debut and tied for 56th. . . . Defending champion David Eger tied for 35th. . . . Kermit Zarley, who did not play all of last year because of an arthritic right hip, made his first start since October 2004. He finished 75th. . . . Dan Pohl withdrew after five holes Friday with a back problem, and Jack Renner withdrew following his second round.

– Staff and wire reports

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