Date: March 20, 2013
Author: Hamish Jones / Golf Australia

Pampling’s roads lead to Bay Hill

When Rod Pampling lost his PGA Tour card last year he noted two things: firstly, that he had his chances in the closing five events to potentially change the outcome and secondly, that golf was every bit the game of inches. “It&aposs my fault and it sucks, but these things happen,” Pampling said to AAP at the time. “It&aposs such a fine line in this game when it comes to the numbers. There were a handful of times I missed a cut by a shot with a silly decision.” Pampling finished 2012 just US$26,617 short of retaining his card a year where his best, and only top 10 finish, was a tie for 8th at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on the West Coast. This week the PGA Tour heads to Bay Hill Club and Lodge near Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard and the last PGA Tour tournament that Pampling won. Pampling won the Invitational in 2006 and remains the only Australian on the honour roll. The win itself was anything but a cruise. On a see-sawing final day, Pampling s overnight lead evaporated. On the 13th hole, his drive went so far right it ended up out of bounds in a nearby backyard. Englishman Greg Owen walked up to the 17th green holding a two shot lead over the Queenslander and had no more than a metre putt for par to take his first PGA Tour title. The putt ran right of the cup. Before Owen could pencil in the bogey, his rattled return putt horse-shoed out the hole and cost him a double. “It was one of those silly mistakes that I&aposll be remembered for,” Owen said to reporters at the time. “You don&apost get many chances to win on the PGA Tour, and on a great course like this,” Owen said. “I had it in my pocket. It was there. And I threw it away.” To add agony to misery, Owen s par putt to force a play-off on the 18th hit the back lip of the cup and spun out. Denied again. Although the situation was beyond his control, Pampling offered the Englishman an apology as the pair sat in the scoring trailer, both in disbelief. You just hate to see anything like that happen, Pampling said in his press conference. First, you don&apost want to win a tournament like that, but you just hate to see that happen to anyone. It&aposs such a cruel game, but the thing is, it&aposs happened to us. There&aposs not one guy who that hasn&apost happened to. Thankfully it didn&apost happen to me. Yeah, as I said, it&aposs cruel, but, you know, that&aposs golf. Golf it is. Owen still hasn t won a PGA Tour title but recorded three top 10s in 2012 to comfortably retain his card. Both Pampling and Owen return to Bay Hill this week to do it all again. The Australian s conditional PGA Tour status means he ll be making just his fourth start of the season after missing the cut at Torrey Pines in February. He made the cut in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and two weeks ago in Puerto Rico. It’s a packed field led by in-form defending champion Tiger Woods. While form might not point to it, a win would give Pampling back his full PGA Tour status and revive memories of the Bay Hill victory which catapulted him to Number 29 in the world at the time. A win for Owen would banish the memories of what might have been on the 17th green and would give him his first career PGA Tour victory at 41 years of age. It’s a fine line.