Nick O&aposHern has tasted victory for the first time since 1999 with a nerve-wracking playoff win over Peter Lonard at the Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA championship in Coolum. O&aposHern finally scooped the $216,000 first prize when he holed his bunker shot for a birdie at the fourth playoff hole after the overnight leaders finished the final round all square at 22-under-par. The first three playoff holes had finished even before the Western Australian fortuitously chipped in after his approach shot rolled through the green and into the back bunker. He knows, though, he should not have let the championship go that far after blowing the safety net of a two-shot lead at the 16th when he failed to sink a three-footer after Lonard had already putted for par. O&aposHern was then also six inches short of another birdie on 17 to hand the New South Welshman another lifeline. Then, in a dramatic finale, a nervous O&aposHern, after playing far the superior approach shots again on 18th, missed again from no more than three feet and even had a tense two-foot putt just to table a bogey-five and force the sudden death decider. But he eventually edged ahead of Lonard despite the 2002 and 2004 winner not dropping a shot over the four rounds and erased the memory of losing a four-hole playoff to Craig Parry at the 2005 Heineken Classic in Melbourne. The win, O&aposHern&aposs first since the Schweppes Coolum Classic seven years ago, also helped him to the summit of the Australasian PGA order of merit past American Kevin Stadler who finished the tournament down in 24th. There was never more than a shot between O&aposHern and Lonard over the final two days but O&aposHern&aposs eagle-threes gave him a relatively comfortable advantage before his dropped shot on the last. At the straight-forward eighth, which saw an amazing eight eagles on day four alone, Lonard found the bunker off the green before chipping 20 feet past the hole and subsequently missing his birdie putt while O&aposHern sank an eagle to leapfrog his closest rival. Then, on the par-five 12th, Lonard&aposs drive flew wide left and he could only chip to the edge of green to putt out for a birdie while O&aposHern, perfectly placed on the green, carded an eagle with a simple 10-foot putt. When Lonard birdied the 13th to retake a share of the lead at 22-under, it was down to a two-horse race with third-placed South Australian Wade Ormsby three shots adrift. But O&aposHern failed to build on an excellent birdie after a wonderful approach shot on 15 and after missing on 18 needed another hour of tension-charged golf to finally record his second elusive victory. Ormsby had earlier started like a player eager to banish the memory of his triple-bogey eight on the 15th on day three when he was in the process of lining up his own course record. But even though the 26-year-old hung in there with five birdies on his front nine, he managed no more and passed up the chance of a share of the lead when he pushed a birdie putt on the 12th as the leading pair waited patiently to play. New South Welshman Paul Gow crept unnoticed behind Ormsby and when he eagled 12 was just three shots of the pace but couldn&apost quite rein in the leading trio despite carding a five-under 67, 18-under for the championship. He did, though, pass playing partner Peter O&aposMalley, who missed an easy birdie chance on the seventh and just didn t get his final round going to finish in outright fifth on minus 16. Meanwhile, the pre-tournament favourites failed to live up to expectations with Geoff Ogilvy (13-under) finishing in joint-eighth with Stuart Appleby, defending champion Robert Allenby (10-under) in 16th and Adam Scott (six-under) in 32nd. Appleby did, though, raise $210,000 for his junior golf foundation and beyondblue after recording 20 tournament birdies in addition to his previous pledges from earlier competitions. The day&aposs other winner was Victorian Steven Jones whose sparkling final round 67 saw him beat off the challenge of overnight favourite New South Welshman Tristan Lambert in the battle for the best rookie of the championships. Jones collected the coveted Kel Nagle plate ahead of Lambert, first day surprise package Nigel Stivala, South Australian David Lutterus and Victorian Marc Leishman.
Author: Marc Fox