LAS VEGAS -- Nothing has come easy for Billy Andrade this year. Winning his first tournament was no different.
Andrade, who carried a two-shot lead into the final hole, narrowly escaped disaster in the desert Sunday to beat Phil Mickelson by a stroke and win the Invensys at Las Vegas Classic.
Andrade hit his tee shot on the 18th hole into a desert canyon, and ended up having to two-putt from about 50 feet to win.
The $765,000 first prize dwarfed the $187,027 Andrade won all year, and moved him from worrying about making enough money to retain his PGA Tour card to wondering if he can make the top 30 and get in the lucrative Tour Championship.
"I'm speechless the way the whole week went," Andrade said. "I'm near tears after having such a bad year to do this."
Andrade, tied for the lead with Tom Byrum to begin the day, shot a final-round 68 to hold off Mickelson, who birdied the final hole for a 66.
It wasn't easy, though, as Andrade nearly put his wedge shot on the par-5 16th into the water and ended up making birdie, then birdied the tough par-3 17th for what seemed to be a secure two-shot lead.
But he hooked a 3-wood off the 18th tee into the desert canyon, then had to hit a 6-iron 199 yards from a sidehill lie over water to get it on the green.
Andrade left his first putt about 3 feet short, then calmly knocked in the putt to finish 28 under.
"Sometimes you need a little luck," he said.
Andrade, who had been in a deep slump since taking a month off in May 1999, came to Las Vegas simply trying to retain his tour card. He was 159th on the money list, and needed to get into the top 125 to keep his exemption.
He did more than that, moving up to 43rd after winning the big purse in the $4.25 million event.
Mickelson, on the other hand, was returning to the tour after a six-week layoff, trying to get in shape for next week's Presidents Cup.
Mickelson finished the weekend with a pair of 66s, but a missed 3-footer on 17 and a bogey on No. 9, one of the easiest par-5s on the course, did him in.
"The final straw was the putt on 17," Mickelson said. "I kept kind of not taking advantage of some great opportunities, but I capitalized on some to keep in it."
Byrum, who led or shared the lead from the second round on, shot even-par 72 and tied for ninth place. He began the tournament shooting three straight 65s.
Andrade, who hadn't won since the 1998 Bell Canadian Open, started poorly Sunday, making bogey on the first and fourth holes. He made the turn in even par, then birdied three of his next four holes.
His 15-foot downhill birdie putt on the 13th hole put him ahead for good, and he managed to keep the lead with an up-and-down from under a tree on the next hole.
Andrade finished with all five rounds in the 60s, with his final 68 his highest round of the tournament
Jonathan Kaye finished in a tie with Stewart Cink for third after tying the course record at TPC Summerlin with a 10-under 62 that briefly put him in a tie for the lead.
"I tried not to look at any boards," Kaye said. "And even when I did, they didn't have what I was looking for."
Divots: First prize was $765,000, more than the entire purse of $725,000 in the LPGA World Championship, which was won Sunday by Juli Inkster. ... Andrade's previous best payday was the $396,000 he got for winning the Bell Canadian. ... Brad Faxon completed his round of 66 to finish at 19 under, then went out and walked the final holes with Andrade, cheering on his close friend. ... The win was the fourth for Andrade in 10 years on the tour. He won the Kemper Open and Buick Classic in consecutive weeks in 1991, and also won the 1988 Canadian Open.
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