Brooks gets gift-wrapped Kemper Open victory

June 06, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

POTOMAC -- Mark Brooks used to believe that the only way to win golf tournaments was to shoot for the pin, to bury the opposition when you have the chance, to play smart but not necessarily safe.

Yesterday, he found there's another way.

Just have the other guy give it to you.

With the final round of 2-under par 69 and a four-round score of 13-under 271, Brooks won the $1.3 million Kemper Open at Avenel. But his victory came only after third-round leader Bobby Wadkins tried to put some distance between himself and the rest of the field, but wound up self-destructing instead.

As a result, Wadkins lost his ball, his lead and his chance to end a 20-year PGA Tour winless drought. Not only did he open the door with a triple-bogey 8 on the sixth hole, he offered himself as a human welcome mat for Brooks to walk over.

Brooks complied, protected his lead as if it were a precious gem by making pars, then dropped a birdie on the final hole that gave the 33-year-old Texan a three-shot victory over the long-suffering Wadkins and veteran D. A. Weibring.

The victory, worth $234,000, was the fourth in 11 years on tour for Brooks, but more importantly was his first win since the 1991 Milwaukee Open. It pushed him from 59th on this year's money list to 15th.

Asked if he had ever won a tournament under such circumstances, Brooks said: "Probably in college. I've never been handed one out here."

Not that Brooks was undeserving. His second birdie in a round that featured 16 pars -- including 13 straight, 11 after Wadkins' disaster -- gave him four straight sub-70 rounds. He led after each of the first two rounds, once by as many as six shots, and relinquished the lead for a total of 11 holes.

While it was the best finish for Wadkins since losing in sudden death to Bernhard Langer at the Heritage Classic in 1985, it was certainly one that he and others will, uh, second-guess.

"I've thought about that shot a couple of times today," Wadkins said after finishing with a 3-over par 74. "But I'll make that shot 70 percent of the time. Making an 8 is something that never entered my mind."

With Brooks having put his second shot on the 520-yard sixth hole into a creek in front of the green, Wadkins went for the green and the jugular. He missed both -- badly.

"I was playing good for three days," recalled Wadkins, who was at 13-under at the time and one shot ahead of Brooks. "I had a note from [brother] Lanny in my locker, 'You're playing great. Just keep going forward.' I had one goal, and that was to win the golf tournament. I've hit a lot of worse-looking shots that have been found. The only one who knows where it went was the ball. It wasn't meant to be."

Playing a high fade with a 2-iron from 193 yards away, Wadkins hit the ball into a thick forest to the right of the fairway. Even a search party of more than four dozen spectators couldn't find it. He dropped another ball, and this one found a bunker behind the green.

But that wasn't the end of Wadkins' toil or trouble. He barely got his ball out of the bunker and onto a downward slope of heavy grass. He chipped tentatively, to within eight feet, and missed the putt for double-bogey.

"I'm sure he didn't know my ball was in the water," said Brooks, who had hit his own 2-iron approach a bit fat, with the ball trickling into the marshy creek in front of the green. "But I'm sure he didn't have thoughts of laying up. If he pulled it off, he could've [had] a different day."

Instead, Brooks managed to save par by hitting his third shot (after dropping himself) to 15 feet, then making one of several long par putts he converted yesterday. The three-shot swing gave Brooks a two-shot lead, which became two when Wadkins proceeded to bogey the par-4 seventh as well.

It also pulled Weibring and left-hander Phil Mickelson into the tournament. Weibring pulled to within two shots of Brooks with birdies at 12 and 13, and Mickelson got to 10-under with birdies at 13 and 14. Mickelson fell back to finish tied with reigning U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (66 yesterday) at 9-under.

"When Bobby did that at 6, the scoreboard jumped," said Weibring.

But Brooks barely flinched. Though later admitting to becoming a tad conservative, Brooks said that he went from a match-play mentality to mettle play, so to speak. As Wadkins continued to fall off, bogeying Nos. 7 and 12 before rallying with two late birdies, Brooks changed strategy.

"I didn't have to focus on him [Wadkins] anymore," said Brooks. "I had to focus on everyone else. I started thinking, 'I have to stay two, three, four shots ahead. I was still thinking of getting to my goal of five birdies."

It was of little consolation to Wadkins that he had his best finish in eight years, and that his second-place check of $114,400 will likely help him get back the tour card that he lost after undergoing neck surgery two years ago.

"It doesn't mean anything," he said. "I'd rather donate that money, have that trophy and have that win."

After his drought of nearly three years, Mark Brooks isn't about to hand over what he had handed to him on the sixth hole at Avenel yesterday.


The winner . . .

Mark Brooks ... 65-68-69-69271

# . . . and followers

D. A. Weibring ... 70-68-68-68274

Bobby Wadkins .... 68-67-65-74274

Lee Janzen ....... 70-71-68-66275

Phil Mickelson ... 70-69-67-69275

Joel Edwards ..... 71-70-68-69278

Kenny Perry ...... 72-72-68-67279

Mark Lye ..... ... 70-70-69-70279

Craig Parry .. ... 69-71-69-70279

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