By Kim J. Harmon
By Kim J. Harmon
CROMWELL â If golf fans were looking for excitement last Sunday in the final round of the Buick Championship, none of the signs â at first â appeared favorable.
The field had only a handful of A-list names; two men sat on top of the leaderboard (Justin Rose at 12-under and Ben Curtis at 11-under) with a decent cushion over the next closest competitors (Jerry Kelly and Corey Pavin at 8-under); and inclement weather forced a modest correction in the final round tee times.
But while intermittent rain offered some annoyance, the soft greens turned the final round in a free-for-all scoring frenzy; 54 of the 77 golfers who took to the tees on Sunday finished the round even-par or better.
Brad Faxon came from nowhere â tied for 10th â with a course record 9-under-par round of 61 to capture the championship in a one-hole playoff against Tjaart van der Walt, who came from four strokes back with a 6-under-par round of 64.
Then there were players like Michael Putnam, who is not even on the PGA Tour money list, and Kenny Perry who carded 7-under-par rounds of 63 to get in the hunt. In the end, the top eight finishers were separated by just four strokes.
But when Faxon was 7-under through the first 12 holes and had moved to the top of the leaderboard, the buzz around the TPC at River Highlands began to grow and the scoreboard watching became more serious. When Faxon birdied the par-4, 15th hole and then hit his tee shot on the par-3, 16th hole next to the stick he put himself into position to win the tournament but really saved the day with a shot from the rough and over the water on the par-4, 17th hole.
That was his first miracle shot; the second came from the bunker on the par-4, 18th hole in the sudden death playoff with van der Walt.
It was Faxonâs first PGA Tour win since 2001.
And it was a nice finish for a tournament which will have a much better spot on the schedule in 2006 â when, some hope, Buick spokesman Tiger Woods would make his first appearance in Cromwell.
The Buick Championship is a major fundraiser for the Greater Hartford Jaycees and with the Celebrity Long Drive competition last Tuesday the Jaycees were able to provide $20,000 in grants to local programs.
The ESPN team won the Long Drive competition and, thus, $6,500 was earmarked for the YWCA of New Britain, which will use the funds to enable children to attend affordable, accredited care in their Fore N Aft Program.
Team Jaycee, playing for the American Diabetes Association, secured the $5,500 second-place prize. The Association will use the funds for their 2006 Diabetes EXPO.
In third place, winning $4,500, was the Hartford WolfPack team, which played for the Plainville Food Pantry, Inc.
The $3,500 fourth-place prize went to News Channel 8 & NBC 30 playing for March, Inc. of Manchester, which will use the money for its Respite Program to provide short-term relief to families who have a disabled family member living at home.