Originally created 10/14/02

Tataurangi comes from behind for first tournament win



LAS VEGAS -- Phil Tataurangi didn't think he had a chance to win his first PGA Tour title Sunday. Even after shooting a 10-under 62 to come from five shots behind to win the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas he had trouble believing it.

Tataurangi swept past fourth-round leader David Duval with five birdies on the front nine, then added the same number on the back to get to 29 under.

Then he waited nervously on the driving range as Stuart Appleby, Jeff Sluman and Jim Furyk all missed birdie tries on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff.

"I didn't think for one moment I was going to win the golf tournament today," Tataurangi said.

The New Zealander who has struggled both with his game and his health earned $900,000, more than he had won his entire career before this year. He's the 15th first-time winner this year, breaking the record set in 1991.

Tataurangi did it by making five birdies on the first seven holes of the back nine, then adding routine pars on the last two holes.

"I worked hard to get in a situation like this and I wasn't going to throw it away," Tataurangi said.

Tataurangi said he was simply following a game plan to play aggressively and didn't even know where he stood after finishing the 18th hole.

He didn't look at the leaderboard, and didn't know how much money he had made, even after being presented an oversized check on the 18th green.

His win not only secures his tour card for two years, but will likely put him in the Masters after he moved to 33rd on the money list.

"I've never played the game to make a lot of money,' Tataurangi said.

Appleby had the best chance to tie after nearly making a hole-in-one on the 17th hole. But he missed badly a 10-footer for birdie on the last hole that would have gotten him to 29 under.

Appleby finished with a 66, while Sluman shot a 67 but could not make a chip on 18 to force a playoff.

"I really wanted that one on 18," Appleby said. "I just lost my momentum on the front nine. You just can't stall and I got stuck on the front nine."

Duval, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round and was trying to win for the first time since last year's British Open, shot himself out of contention with a 1-over 37 on the front nine and finished four shots back after a 71.

Duval's chances basically ended when he hit a wedge into the front bunker on the par-5 ninth hole for a bogey.

Furyk, who had won three of the last seven Vegas tournaments, had a three-shot lead after seven holes and had yet to make a bogey in the tournament. But he bogeyed the eighth hole, missed a short birdie putt on the ninth and made two more bogeys on the back nine.

The final one came on the 18th hole when, needing a birdie to tie, he hit his second shot from 184 yards well left of the green and nearly in the water.

Sluman had predicted a day earlier that someone who was 18 or 19 under going into the final round would have to shoot a 62 to have a chance to win.

"I said yesterday someone could come out and shoot 10 under and win the tournament," Sluman said. "That's exactly what happened."

Sluman missed the green with his 6-iron to the 18th hole and had two three-putts on the front nine for bogey. But he shot a 67 that was good enough to secure his spot in the Tour Championship and also the Masters.

"I really can't complain," Sluman said. "I did all the things you were supposed to do. Phil just did one thing better. He won the shootout."

Tataurangi had to earn his tour card at qualifying school after a miserable year in 2001 that included an injury to his neck and a frightening collapse with a heart condition at the Air Canada Championship.

The 30-year-old had his best year even before the win, with two fifth-place finishes and $743,686 in winnings.

Divots: Tataurangi became the 11th winner this year to play his final round without a bogey. ... If Furyk had been able to finish his round without a bogey he would have been the first player to win a tournament without a bogey since Lee Trevino did it in 1974 at New Orleans. ... The tournament loses Invensys as a sponsor this year, but Las Vegas officials said it would be held next year no matter what as a new sponsor is sought.