ENDICOTT, N.Y. (AP) – Willie Wood finally worked his way back to the top.
Wood won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open on Sunday for his first Champions Tour title, beating Michael Allen with a par on the first hole of a playoff.
“It was quite exciting,” Wood said. “I hung in there, hung in there, and things turned out great.”
Wood made a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to match Allen, a two-time winner this year, at 13-under 203 on the En-Joie Golf Course. Wood closed with a 66, and Allen shot 66.
In the playoff on the par-4 18th hole, Allen’s drive went way left into the water, essentially ending his chances. The playoff was the first in the history of the event.
Woods earned $270,000 for the victory, his first since he won the 1996 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic for his lone PGA Tour title.
Joey Sindelar, Kenny Perry, Tom Lehman and Brad Faxon finished a stroke back. Sindelar had a 66, Perry and Lehman shot 67, and Faxon had a 71. Sindelar lives an hour west of En-Joie in Horseheads.
Throughout the last 16 years, Wood toiled on the Web.com Tour against players half his age.
But he always wanted more.
“I knew that when I turned 50, I would have a new challenge ahead of me,” Wood said.
Wood’s biggest stroke Sunday came on the final hole of regulation when he holed the 35-footer to force the playoff. The ball slowly approached the hole and broke right at the last second to fall into the cup, eliciting an emphatic fist pump from Wood and huge cheer from the crowd.
An exciting end to regulation, though, didn’t lead to a competitive playoff.
Wood’s drive was straight and on the mark, and Allen hit into the water.
“I stood up and hit nice cuts there on the practice range and felt pretty good,” Allen said. “Actually, really hit a nice solid shot, but I hit it dead straight with a slight pull and hit it in the water and I was kind of done then.”
Allen started the day tied for seventh, but while other players struggled, he took advantage and steadily climbed to the top of the leaderboard.
An eagle on the par-5 12th hole made up for a bogey on the par-3 seventh and put him on track for the lead.
“The shot that kind of helped me the most was 12,” Allen said. “I had a driver and it was a perfect hybrid from about 235. I hit it to about 10 feet and made that for eagle and kind of got me going in contention.”
John Huston, the defending champion and second-round leader, shot a 5-over 77 to tie for 21st.