April 19: American Ted Purdy came close to a breakthrough victory on the US PGA Tour on Sunday, losing in a five-hole play-off to Stewart Cink at the MCI Heritage at Harbour Town.
Purdy, who spent several years playing in Asia, led by four shots heading into the final round but carded a two-over-par 73 and was caught by Cink, who carded a superb 64. Both players parred the first four sudden-death holes before Cink hit an approach to six feet for birdie to end the shoot-out.
Purdy’s consolation was a US$518,000 cheque and increased his season’s earnings to over US$687,000, which secures his Tour card for 2005. Earlier, Purdy carded rounds of 69, 67 and 65 which prompted Irishman Darren Clarke to comment that “he’s a helluva of player.”
Both Cink and Purdy accumulated a four-day total of 10-under-par 274.
Purdy could have clinched victory at the last hole in regulation but missed his birdie attempt from 10 feet. “That was the easiest putt you can have. It was pretty straight. I guess I was a little jumpy and I pulled it,” he said.
Korea’s Kevin Na, who was tied fifth playing the last round, also closed with a 73 to fall back to joint 11th place on 280. Na, the rookie of the year in Asia two years ago, won US$101,760 to raise his earnings to over US$378,000. Players need to win approximately half a million dollars to secure their Tour cards for the following season.
On the Nationwide Tour, Swede Daniel Chopra claimed the First Tee Arkansas Classic title, thanks to three closing birdies on Sunday. Chopra shot rounds of 75, 66, 68 and 66 for a winning total of 13-under-par 275, one ahead of John Elliot.
Chopra has a US PGA Tour card but could not get into the main field at the MCI Heritage. He opted to play in the Arkansas Classic to build confidence after missing seven cuts in nine starts on the main circuit.
“This (Nationwide) Tour changed my career around and gave me a great opportunity to play. It’s nice to know that I have a place to play next year, regardless of what happens the rest of this year (on the US PGA Tour). In a way, it takes the pressure off me now and maybe I can just free-wheel it. I’ve got some job security now,” said Chopra, winner of the 2000 Mercuries Masters in Taiwan.