Originally created 04/30/01

Hoch gets first win since 1997



GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Scott Hoch was wondering if he was ever going to get it going Sunday in the final round of the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic.

Then he felt inspiration from an old friend - the late Payne Stewart.

"I just told him to try to help us get through the day and I really felt he was out there today," said Hoch, who used Stewart's former caddie, Mike Hicks.

"I just started thinking about it when I got a little down and then something just turned me around. I can't say what it was," added Hoch, who broke down in tears talking about Stewart, who died in a plane crash in October 1999. "I just felt kind of a calmness out."

Hoch broke loose from his slow start to snap his 94-tournament winless streak on the PGA Tour, shooting a final-round 69 to capture the biggest purse of a career that has spanned more than two decades.

Hoch, 45, won his ninth event and first since the 1997 Greater Milwaukee Open with a 72-hole total of 16-under 272 at Forest Oaks Country Club.

Hoch started the day leading by one shot, and ended up beating Brett Quigley and Scott Simpson by one despite a bogey at No. 18.

Quigley, who shot a 67, was attempting to become only the second player to win in consecutive weeks on the Buy.com and PGA tours. Paul Stankowski did it in 1996, winning the Louisiana Open on what was then the Nike Tour, and the next week at the BellSouth Classic.

"This just shows you what confidence can do," Quigley said.

Simpson, who missed all of last season after major surgery on his right ankle, had his best finish since 1998, shooting a final-round 68.

"After the year off you have a chance to get away from it and reflect and realize how lucky we are to be able to play golf for a living," said Simpson, a former U.S. Open winner. "It was just the challenge to see if I could come back. That was a lot of fun."

Hoch started the day without much of a putting touch and netted six straight pars before his first birdie on No. 7 after sticking it within 3 feet.

The veteran then made his move on the back nine as more than a half dozen players were within range of the lead over the final nine holes.

He birdied three of his first five holes after making the turn to take command of the $3.5 million event. He made a 4-footer on No. 11, had a sand save from 8 feet for birdie two holes later and then went to 17-under when he made a 12-footer on the next hole.

"We got close and he just put it away," Quigley said of Hoch. "That guy is not going to back down and he proved it today."

Hoch, who was born in Raleigh and attended college at nearby Wake Forest, had only played in this tournament once (1999) in the last decade.

And he almost didn't come this time, committing late and then checking the weather on his computer before heading north from his home in Orlando on Monday to join a field that had just 17 of the top 50 money leaders.

Once at the course, Hoch complained that the rough was 3 inches shorter than normal, saying he would have stayed at home if he knew it had been cut.

But after two 68s and a 67 moved Hoch into the third-round lead, he won for the sixth time in 14 tries when tied or leading heading into Sunday.

He was the only player to have four rounds in the 60s this week and picked up some rough after his final putt and threw it in the air behind the 18th green.

"I was barking a lot a little bit earlier, but good play can overcome a lot of things," Hoch said of his comments about the lack of rough.

The $630,000 winner's purse was also the largest of his 22-year career. His previous best was $378,000 in the '97 Players Championship.

"On the 18th tee I said, `Man, I can't even swallow,"' Hoch said he told Hicks. "I don't know when the last time my mouth got that dry."

It was only Quigley's third PGA Tour event of the season. He withdrew from the Tucson Open in mid-January and missed the cut three weeks later at Pebble Beach.

Jerry Kelly, in a group with Mike Sposa and David Berganio Jr. that began the day one shot behind Hoch, started fast. He hit his approach to 1 foot on No. 1 and then birdied the second hole after hitting his second shot on the par-5 within 12 feet on the right fringe.

But Kelly, who tied for fourth at this year's Players, began to fall apart with a bogey on the par-5 9th and then faded from contention on the back as his playing partner took control.

He finished in a group of five players tied for fourth at 13-under.

Sposa shot a 73, while Berganio had a 71 to finish back in the pack.