Golf: Huston's big finish: Couples bows out of Doral with back injury while Spaniard succeeds in sudden death

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The Independent Online
JOHN HUSTON, 32, won his third PGA Tour event yesterday, taking the prestigious Doral Open away from a less than prestigious leaderboard. He won with a score of 14-under-par 274, three strokes ahead of Brad Bryant and Billy Andrade, the overnight leader whom Huston had trailed by four strokes at the start of play.

Huston had four birdies on the back nine, his only flirt with a bogey on the lake-lined last hole, known as the Blue Monster, which he played with a two-stroke lead. Huston's second shot went into a bunker, and he faced a 10-foot putt to save par, a putt he dropped right in the centre to finish with a 66. The biggest drama of the tournament came in mid-round, as first Billy Andrade holed an eight-iron, and then D A Weibring holed a wedge from the fairway for an eagle, both times to take the lead - leads that would not stand up to Huston's steady set of birdies. Each made costly mistakes coming in, Weibring in the water on the 18th and Andrade missing a two-foot putt.

Huston's only mistake came early, on the eighth hole as he hit his second shot into the water and made bogey. He was playing on his own at that point, as his playing partner, Fred Couples, withdrew just a few minutes before the round began. While on the driving range yesterday afternoon, Couples injured his lower back.

Couples said: 'I was swinging on the range and everything felt great. I hit one ball and it felt like my back exploded. I stood there and absolutely could not move. Mike Ploski of the Centinela (Hospital) staff came by and indicated this could be very serious. I'm very disappointed. This is my first time in 14 years that I am not able to finish a tournament. I hope to defend my title next week (at the Honda Classic), but at this point I'm not sure of anything.'

In his hotel room after treatment, Couples was lying down with ice on his lower back, having difficulty breathing and saying that he had never felt anything like the pain his back was causing him.

This marks the second prominent player the US Tour has lost to injury this week, with Phil Mickelson out indefinitely after breaking his leg skiing on Thursday.

DORAL OPEN (Miami) Leading final scores (US unless stated): 274 J Huston 70 68 70 66. 277 B Bryant 70 69 69 69; B Andrade 70 68 66 73. 279 J Thorpe 68 72 68 71; L Clements 72 70 66 71; D A Weibring 74 69 65 71. 281 G Norman (Aus) 71 74 69 67; B Lietzke 74 69 71 67; L Roberts 73 70 69 69. 282 M Hulbert 72 74 70 66; M McCumber 76 69 68 69. 283 M Sullivan 71 75 71 66; R Floyd 68 76 69 70; C Strange 73 72 70 68.

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