Golf: Azinger triumphs after play-off drama: Norman stutters on the green to suffer more extra-hole agony and hand American first major title as Faldo settles for third place

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The Independent Online
PAUL AZINGER won the 75th US PGA Championship at Inverness yesterday when he defeated Greg Norman in a nerve-wracking play-off. After they had tied on 272, 12 under par and one stroke in front of Nick Faldo, Azinger triumphed at the second extra hole of sudden death.

Norman, the Open champion, had been deprived of this championship on the same course seven years ago but this time the damage was self-inflicted. At the 10th hole in the final round he missed a two-foot putt for a birdie and when he returned there in the play-off it was like a nightmare re- visited. Azinger, 33 from Florida who had never won a major championship, hit his approach to five feet and his putt lipped out. His despair was shortlived. Norman, who lost a play- off in the Open at Troon in 1989 and in the Masters in 1987, left his first putt, from around 25 feet, four feet short and that too hit the lip and stayed out. 'I'm in a daze,' Norman said. The first reaction of Azinger, who plays in the Ryder Cup next month, was to thank God.

At the first play-off hole, the 18th, both had chances to settle the issue. Norman was faced with a putt that was very similar to the one he had just narrowly missed in the final round. From 20 feet it had a left to right break of about two feet and second time around Norman appeared to have judged it perfectly but the ball hit the cup and spun out. Azinger, with a shorter putt, also shaved the hole. Faldo matched Azinger's 68 in the fourth round but had to settle for third place.

When the US PGA Championship was held here in 1986 Norman was poised to win when Bob Tway holed from a bunker at the last hole to snatch an improbable victory. Yesterday Norman increased his overnight one-stroke lead when he had a birdie at the third with a putt from 20 feet.

At that point Faldo, who began with six pars, was three strokes off the lead but before the turn the picture dramatically changed. Faldo, playing ahead of Norman, had birdies at the seventh and eighth, making putts from around 15 feet at both holes. At about the same time Norman lost his lead. The sixth hole, a par-three of 210 yards, savaged Norman. His ball landed in a bunker to the right of the green and he failed to get it out of the sand at the first attempt. He blasted his third shot well past the flag and missed the putt to record a double bogey five. From 11 under he dropped to nine under and the bleeding did not stop there. A bogey, a couple of dropped strokes and suddenly Faldo was two strokes in front of the Australian.

Norman, who beat Faldo by two shots at Sandwich last month, went to the turn in 36 compared to Faldo's 33. Singh birdied the eighth and 13th to go to 11 under and Norman, bidding to become the first player since Walter Hagen in 1924 to win the Open and the US PGA, regrouped. He had a birdie at the eighth and another at the 11th where he holed from 18 feet. He should have had a birdie at the 10th but missed a two-foot putt.

However, Norman drew level with Faldo and Singh when he found the heart of the green at the par-five 13th with his approach shot and although he missed the eagle chance he secured his birdie. Faldo, who also birdied the 13th, scrambled to save par at the 14th and 15th. He had a stroke of luck at the 15th when again he pushed his drive to the right and his ball was prevented from rolling behind a tree by a woman spectator who was sitting behind the ropes. Faldo had made a string of putts from around four and five feet to protect his score but crucially he missed a short putt that would have given him a birdie three at the 16th. Azinger, meanwhile, made his move with three birdies in a row from the 12th. Despite producing one of only two rounds that did not contain a bogey Faldo was overtaken, first by Azinger who had a birdie at the 17th and then by Norman who hit his approach at the 16th to within two feet.

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Toledo, Ohio) Third- round scores (US unless stated): 203 G Norman (Aus) 68 68 67. 204 H Irwin 68 69 67; B Estes 69 66 69; P Azinger 69 66 69; T Watson 69 65 70; V Singh (Fiji) 68 63 73; L Wadkins 65 68 71. 205 B Faxon 70 70 65; N Faldo (GB) 68 68 69; D Hart 66 68 71; S Simpson 64 70 71. 206 J Cook 72 66 68. 207 N Ozaki (Japan) 73 68 66; G Hallberg 70 69 68; J McGovern 71 67 69; P Mickelson 67 71 69; J Haas 69 68 70; S Elkington (Aus) 67 66 74. 208 W Levi 69 73 66; R Zokol (Can) 66 71 71; E Romero (Arg) 67 67 74. 209 N Henke 72 70 67; I Woosnam (GB) 70 71 68; G Twiggs 70 69 70; P Senior (Aus) 69 70 70; L Janzen 70 68 71; F Couples 70 68 71; F Nobilo (NZ) 69 66 74. 210 S Hoch 74 68 68; H Green 70 71 69; L Roberts 67 67 76; B Fleisher 69 74 67. 211 C Parry (Aus) 70 73 68; M Standly 72 71 68; D Hammond 73 70 68; B Mayfair 68 73 70; H Sutton 69 72 70; P Stewart 71 70 70; F Allem (SA) 70 71 70; M Hulbert 67 72 72. 212 A Lyle (GB) 69 73 70; D Forsman 67 75 70; G Sauers 68 74 70; I Baker-Finch (Aus) 73 69 70; T Wargo 71 70 71; J Maggert 72 69 71; N Price (Zim) 74 66 72; J Daly 71 68 73; J Huston 68 69 75; P Jacobsen 71 67 74. 213 R Cochran 69 74 70; F Zoeller 72 70 71; T Kite 73 69 71; R Fehr 70 71 72; B Crenshaw 70 70 73. 214 S Ingraham 74 69 71; D Weibring 68 74 72; D Love 70 72 72; L Nelson 73 67 74; M McCumber 67 72 75; F Funk 72 66 76. 215 J Sluman 74 69 72; S Pate 73 70 72; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 73 69 73; M Calcavecchia 68 70 77. 216 M Wiebe 74 69 73. 217 A Magee 71 72 74; R Mediate 70 73 74. 218 J Adams 72 70 76; M Allen 73 70 75; K Burton 69 73 76; B Lane (GB) 67 74 77. 219 B Ford 70 71 78. 223 B Borowicz 72 71 80.

(Photograph omitted)

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