Golf: Price pulls off another major feat: Zimbabwean spreadeagles US PGA Championship field while Faldo shares fourth place

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The Independent Online
NICK PRICE, having won the 74th US PGA Championship, added the 76th for good measure here yesterday and he did so in the most authoritative manner possible. Jack Nicklaus established the biggest winning margin of seven strokes in this event at Oakhill in 1980 and Price won by six.

Price spreadeagled the field with rounds of 67, 65, 70 and 67 and his aggregate of 269 beat by two strokes the record set by Bobby Nichols in 1964. Corey Pavin was a distant second, Phil Mickelson third and Greg Norman and Nick Faldo joint fourth. 'I was so nervous because I had everything to lose,' Price said. 'Because I was playing so well people were saying who was going to finish second. I'm so proud of the way I played the front nine and I made a couple of putts when I needed to. The only time I relaxed was when I was on the 16th because I reckoned I could finish double-bogey, double-bogey and still win.'

Before teeing off yesterday afternoon, Price was asked: 'Who is the player you are most concerned about?' Price looked at the leaderboard and replied: 'I think Greg's the one that can catch fire. If the wind dies he's the player capable of shooting 62 or 63. If that's the case I'm going to have to shoot two or three under par. If Greg gets it going, as we all know he can in the last round of championships, then I'm going to be keeping an eye on him.' All eyes were on Price.

Norman, who was beaten in a play-off by Paul Azinger in this championship 12 months ago, could not sustain a challenge. He certainly began aggressively yesterday, with birdies at the first two holes to go to five under for the championship.

Norman, following a 67 in the third round, resumed at three under, five strokes adrift of Price. Norman hit his approach shot at the first to within 10 feet of the flag and rolled in the putt for a three. At the second, he made a putt from a similar distance.

Norman, wearing a black stetson, was leading the posse. Price, the 1992 US PGA champion, was ranked No 2 in the world, but yesterday's procession enabled him to overtake Norman. Price scrambled like mad to preserve his lead in the third round, but yesterday he made a confident start.

If Norman had thrown down the gauntlet, Price picked it up. At the third hole, he hit his approach shot about 15 feet beyond the flag and he got sufficient backspin on the ball for it to finish 18 inches from the hole. He tapped it in for a birdie to get to nine under.

For the first time in the history of the game, the American trophy cabinet was bare of major silverware and the leading contender over the early holes was the 24- year-old Phil Mickelson.

Resuming at four under, the left-hander birdied the third and fourth holes to advance to six under. At the fourth, Mickelson's approach shot finished a couple of feet from the hole, but the problem for the hounds was that the hare showed no sign of flagging. At the same hole, Price sank a five-foot putt for a birdie to go to 10 under and, with another birdie at the eighth, his position was virtually unassailable. He attacked the pin at the 16th for another three and that put him at 12 under and over the horizon.

Faldo and Ian Woosnam shot 66. Faldo came home in 32 and he finished on 277, three under. In the Open at Turnberry - won, of course, by Price - Faldo scored 64 in the last round. 'I'm not surprised at what Price has done,' Faldo said. 'He's in a mode that I was once in. I'm speaking from experience. You have total control. It's a wonderful feeling.'

Faldo once again blamed his putting in the first three rounds here. 'It's not the stick,' he said, 'it's the puttee. I never felt comfortable on the greens and never got the pace of them. From tee to green I'm as good as anybody. I must have had 30 chances which I didn't take.' Faldo will next meet Price in the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland in three weeks' time. 'The only way to stop him is to get him drunk at altitude,' Faldo said.

After his rollercoaster round of 70 on Saturday, which could easily have been an 80, Price said: 'Hopefully that was the one bad round I'm going to have all week. I got away with even par.' Price, who became the first player since Tom Watson in 1982 to win back to back major championships, saw his lead whittled from five strokes to three after the third round, but he set about doubling that yesterday. Everybody else was playing for place money and although Price dropped a stroke at the last by three putting, he had such a commanding lead he could afford to be extravagant.

The 37-year-old Price won dollars 310,000 (pounds 203,000), which put his earnings since winning the US PGA in St Louis two years ago past the dollars 6m mark. Since his first major triumph at Bellerive in 1992, the Zimbabwean has won 15 tournaments.

If Price was familiar with the history of major championships at Southern Hills, he might have prepared his acceptance speech on Saturday night. Tommy Bolt (1958 US Open), Dave Stockton (1970 US PGA Championship), Hubert Green (1977 US Open), and Ray Floyd (1982 US PGA) all retained their composure and their leads while winning here.

(Photograph omitted)

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