- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2008

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Having gone more than seven years and 199 tournaments without winning, Steve Lowery had every reason to feel out of his element yesterday.

He was on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach, one of the most famous spots in golf.

He was in a playoff against Vijay Singh, one of golf’s toughest customers.

And he never felt more at ease.

Lowery took advantage of a stunning collapse by Singh, who made three straight bogeys on the back nine, then put him away on the first extra hole with a 7-foot birdie putt to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

“I couldn’t have given it any more in 18 holes,” said Lowery, who closed with a 4-under 68. “I just told my caddie, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose.’ Just go out and play aggressive. If anything, it kind of freed me up a little it. I just felt like I didn’t have anything to lose.”

The 47-year-old Lowery became the oldest champion in the 71-year history of the event and one of the more surprising winners.

He was No. 305 in the world ranking when he arrived on the Monterey Peninsula. He suffered a freak wrist injury last year that kept him out for three months and gave him temporary status this season. Most surprising of all is that Lowery was three shots behind Singh when he walked off the 14th tee.

Singh made three straight bogeys, and only a wedge within two feet on the 18th hole for birdie allowed him one last chance in a playoff. That didn’t last long. Singh found two more bunkers on the 18th in overtime and did well to make par.

Both players finished at 10-under 278.

“I let this one slip away,” Singh said. “I was in control, but those [bogeys] took a little air out of me. I still should have won the tournament. There’s no excuse for that.”

Lowery earned $1.08 million and a two-year exemption. He was on a minor medical extension because of the wrist injury and was given eight tournaments to earn $282,558 to keep his card the rest of the year.

He was only exempt to opposite-field events in Mexico and Puerto Rico the next two months.

Now he’s going to the Masters.

It was his first victory since the 2000 Southern Farm Bureau Classic and third in his career, all won in playoffs.

“After seven years and winning on this course against Vijay and everything … it’s probably the most special,” Lowery said.

The first playoff at Pebble Beach since 1992 didn’t even seem remotely possibly when Lowery walked off the 14th green with a bogey. He was three shots behind Singh, who had just hit a brilliant flop shot to six feet to save par on the 13th.

Turns out it was a sign of sloppy play that followed.

Singh went at the flag on the 14th with a sand wedge from 92 yards, but it was a tad strong and spun down the slope, and the best he could do was chip to 20 feet and make bogey. He missed the 15th green to the left, chipped weakly and missed an 8-footer for par.

The free fall continued on the 16th when Singh hit fairway metal into a bunker, went over the green down a slope to the back bunker and two-putted from the fringe for his third straight bogey.

His only break came on the 18th in regulation, when his tee shot bounced off the trunk of a tree and deflected to the left. No such luck in the playoff, however. From a fairway bunker, Singh’s second shot hit the top of the trap, leaving him a 4-iron into the green, and that one caught a plugged lie. He blasted out to eight feet and saved par.

Dudley Hart, who started the final round tied with Singh, didn’t make a birdie until making three straight at the end for a 72 to finish one shot out of the playoff. He tied for third with John Mallinger (65) and Corey Pavin (66).

Jason Day, the 20-year-old from Australia, finished alone in sixth after a 70.

Pebble Beach was the final tournament to qualify for the Match Play Championship. Pat Perez shot 72 and tied for 24th, but it was enough for him to get into his first World Golf Championship. Perez moved up one spot No. 65, and with Ernie Els not playing, he will face Tiger Woods in the first round provided no one else withdraws.

“I can’t lose either way,” Perez said. “If I beat him, I’m a hero. If I don’t, I’m not supposed to win.”

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