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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 18, 2010

Palmer birdies 18th to win by 1

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ryan Palmer celebrates his wire-to-wire victory at the Sony Open in Hawai'i at Waialae Country Club.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sony Open winner Ryan Palmer, left, can't believe his good fortune as he walks off the 18th green with Robert Allenby.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Palmer was good to the last shot at Waialae Country Club.

After Palmer's delicate chip for eagle on the 18th hole did not come out that delicately — slamming into the flag stick practically dead center and rolling 5 inches away —Allenby's 9-foot birdie putt pulled toward the ocean instead of the hole.

Palmer tapped in for birdie and a one-shot victory, then punched the air emphatically. He fired a 4-under-par 66 for a 72-hole total of 15-under 265.

"What I got out of this is beyond words," Palmer said. "It was a great field. Some of the top players in the world were here. To do it every day, I mean, my bad round was a 2-under-par yesterday and I played good every day, played solid, consistent. I never once got upset, impatient. To me, what I did today is probably one of the best rounds of golf I've ever experienced."

The PGA Tour's first full-field event of 2010 is the 33-year-old's third victory, but first since 2008, shoulder surgery and the birth of his second child in August. He finished a career-low 150th on the money list last year and said yesterday his only good tournament the past three years was that win.

Now there are so many reasons to celebrate — including the $990,000 first prize that put him over $7 million for his career — and so much time.

Each day here Palmer, a wire-to-wire winner, talked of staying in the moment and playing for the day. It was something he learned from reading about defending champion Zach Johnson, but the application was all Palmer's. He was "amazed" at how well it worked.

"That's what kept me calm," he said. "I didn't think about being in the lead or start teeing off as the leader the next day. I just told myself I was even par, let's just go play golf today, try to shoot under par and see where we stack up at the end of the day."

He was 5-under after the first day and followed it with 66-68, including a streak of 29 straight bogey-free holes that ended at No. 4 yesterday.

The affable Dallas Cowboys diehard woke early yesterday and rolled with Brett Favre's punches, joking that he came to Waialae looking for "revenge" for the Vikings' win.

In reality, his sweet disposition was a constant, even as he went on a birdie-bogey roller-coaster the first five holes of the back nine. "Usually it's bogey-birdie," Palmer shrugged.

Allenby, looking for his third win in three starts, was just as goodon a final day that featured all the fireworks the first three days lacked. He and Palmer came into the final round three shots ahead of the field and were a combined 7-under in the final group, with 11 birdies.

Allenby won in South Africa and at home in Australia before coming here and showed up with immense confidence. Then he rolled his right ankle walking with his wife Monday and gamely played on, using the Pro-Am to find a way to deal with the "crappy shots" he knew would come.

Allenby is ranked 20th in the world and has won $21 million in the U.S., but this would have been his first PGA Tour victory in 204 tournaments over nine years.

Despite the gimpy ankle, he stayed with Palmer every painful step of the way until the final moments. No one else could hang.

Steve Stricker, ranked third in the world, fired a final-round 65 and caught the leaders on the fourth hole. But he finished at 13-under.

Retief Goosen, ranked 19th, took apart Waialae with a tournament-best 62 early in the day, but also came up short.

When Allenby's 38-foot birdie putt somehow stayed out at No. 17, and Palmer pulled his 13-footer, they headed to the par-5 18th — Waialae's second-easiest hole —at 14-under.

Both drives missed the fairway, which was not unusual at 18 or for Palmer. He missed half the fairways over four days, but ranked third in greens in regulation at 76 percent.

Palmer's second shot, from 226 yards out, came up short of the green. Allenby's took one huge bounce and bolted through the green. It was stopped by the scaffolding under the TV camera.

"At the end of the day, realistically, I needed to make a birdie at the last, knowing that he was right in front of the green there," Allenby said. "I thought I hit the right club out of the rough. I had the same yardage as yesterday and I hit one club less and it went further. I didn't try to hit it any harder, just obviously got a lot more of a jumper out of the rough.

"I thought it was good, and then I saw the first bounce and it just went it was like one of those super balls, the bouncy balls the kids have. They hit the ground and they just go anywhere they want. It was one of those. It was uncontrollable."

Allenby got a free drop and the ball fell deep into the rough. "A nasty lie" was how he described it, "just horrendous."

He pitched the ball softly onto the green and it stopped 9 feet below the hole. Then Palmer hit the shot of his life, and gasped.

"I knew it was going to land too far, and I thought, 'Oh gosh,' " he said. "It was so in line. I didn't think about the distance it was going to go. When I first hit it, I could tell I just caught it thin enough where it was going to release a lot more. It's one of those deals, it bounced on the line and it went my way."

When "the pin got in the way," it looked like the ball would drop for eagle. It didn't, and Palmer raised his hands to his head and dropped over backward.

Allenby hit his putt "exactly where I aimed and I missed." He missed very few at Sony, but this one hurt.

"I hit a solid putt. I hit it (for) a foot and a bit past, but I was not expecting for it to turn as much as it did," Allenby said. "We read probably half the cup outside right. I know that's where I was lined up, and I know that's where I hit it because the stroke felt probably the best of the week and it just went sideways. But that's golf. Sometimes they go in."

He has had his share go in, with 18 international wins and the current hot streak that absolutely shows no sign of ending.

"The last two tournaments prior to this event, I've had a lot that have gone in for me," Allenby said. "You know, if that's the worst thing that's going to happen to me, I'm going to be pretty good."

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