reports from Fort Lauderdale
Mark O'Meara, his lead constantly under threat by Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam over the closing nine holes of the Honda Classic, played the final hole better than the two British golfers, shot a level par round of 71 and escaped with a one- stroke win over Faldo, with Woosnam a further shot back.
It never would have been an easy task for Faldo to win a second successive tournament, and catching O'Meara became a larger challenge yesterday because as Faldo left the fifth green he was six strokes behind. But as he walked to the 17th green he had a five-foot putt to take the lead for the first time.
Three things upset the scenario. The first was that Faldo was not driving as well as he had been. The second was that O'Meara did not collapse. The third was that Woosnam played out of his socks.
O'Meara was at his steadiest on the front nine, playing those holes two under par to get to 11 under. At the time, that was good enough for a four-stroke lead over Woosnam, and five strokes over Faldo.
O'Meara started the back nine by missing two short putts for par. After the second bogey he was still two strokes ahead but that margin lasted just a few minutes as Woosnam sunk a 30-footer for an eagle on the par five 12th to join O'Meara in the lead.
After a bogey on the 13th hole, Woosnam had a chance to tie O'Meara again, hitting one of the best iron shots of the day to four feet at the 16th hole, but his birdie attempt hit the lip and stayed out.
Meanwhile, Faldo had sunk an eight-foot putt for a birdie on the 15th hole to get to seven under par, at the time two behind O'Meara. His best golf came when the situation was at its most difficult. The last four holes comprise the most difficult finish, by far, on the US tour.
Faldo started this stretch with birdies at the 15th and 16th, getting iron shots on the long par fours to eight feet and 10 feet respectively. He had an excellent chance to make a third successive birdie, but he missed from five feet at the 17th. He needed a birdie on the last to force a play-off with O'Meara, but sent his third shot on the par five into a bunker, making par to finish one stroke behind.
HONDA CLASSIC (Weston Hills) Leading final scores (US unless stated): 275 M O'Meara 68 65 71 71. 276 N Faldo (Eng) 67 71 69 69. 277 I Woosnam (Wal) 68 72 69 68. 279 A Magee 69 67 76 67. 280 B McCallister 70 66 73 71. 281 B Britton 71 69 72 69. 282 M Standly 71 66 75 70. 283 S Ballesteros (Sp) 70 68 76 69; M Bradley 73 69 73 68; K Fergus 69 70 72 71; S Verplank 74 67 73 69; B Claar 69 70 72 72. 284 B Langer (Ger) 70 71 73 70; L Rinker 68 72 76 68; J McGovern 65 74 75 70; M McCumber 71 67 76 70; M Hulbert 70 74 69 71; B Tway 71 72 70 71; S Stricker 69 72 71 72; W Austin 73 69 70 72; S Gump 73 69 70 72. Selected: 290 C Montgomerie (Sco) 69 75 71 75. 293 D Feherty (N Irl) 71 73 76 73.