Brooks gets his major with PGA 12-year veteran birdies 18th, tops Perry in playoff

August 12, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For most of his dozen years on the PGA Tour, Mark Brooks has been something of an enigma, a taciturn Texan whose reputation was largely that he had none.

Well, he has one now.

On an overcast day in the final round of the PGA Championship, Brooks became the professional most likely to birdie the first sudden-death playoff hole. He defeated a hometown player with a rabid following and a bad case of the last-hole hooks.

That is what unfolded at Valhalla Golf Club yesterday, when Brooks birdied the last hole of regulation to get into a playoff with Kenny Perry of Franklin, then birdied the first hole of the playoff to beat him, putting a quick end to the "Local Boy Wins Major" story with two pitiless strokes of his putter.

The first birdie was from 3 1/2 feet for a round of 70, which tied him with Perry at 11-under par. The second birdie was from four feet, which put Perry out of his misery.

"I wouldn't like to have to try to get up and down from that bunker again, and I wouldn't like to have to make that first putt again," said Brooks, 35, who became the third consecutive first-time winner of a major championship this year.

Maybe not, but chances are that Brooks would have done things exactly as he did them. It is getting to be a habit.

This is his third victory this season, and the last one came at Houston when he beat a local player there, Jeff Maggert, by two-putting the last hole of regulation from 60 feet and slam-dunking a 30-footer on the first hole of sudden death.

Perry never figured to be in the position he was in at the end of the day -- which was up in the television tower discussing how he came to shoot a final-round 68 and wrest the lead. Perry actually would have been discussing how he came to win the championship and the $430,000 first-place check, along with the 10-year exemption and the glory, if he had done one thing.

He came to the 540-yard 18th hole needing a par to finish at 12-under and win the tournament. The hole was playing the second easiest of any on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. When Perry was on the tee, there had been three eagles, 34 birdies, 33 pars and nine bogeys made.

As Perry walked to the 18th tee, the calm that had wrapped around him like a Kentucky-blue security blanket slipped from his shoulders. Perry said: "I was too pumped up, I guess, kind of nervous, or maybe too excited. I swung too hard and came over the top of it, and pulled the drive down into the weeds over there."

Maybe Perry, who had chopped up the 18th hole, was starting to feel a little destiny on his side when those two players failed to tie him, because he stayed in the television tower, watching Brooks play the hole.

"I probably stayed up in the tower too long," he said. "I probably should have gone down there and hit a few balls to stay loose. I probably got caught up in the moment."

Probably. His drive in sudden death went into the left rough again. Brooks had driven the ball dead center, so Perry had to pull off something to get his ball near the green and set up a chance for birdie. The bluegrass rough turned his 8-iron over, closing the face and sending the shooting ball hard to the left. He chopped at it again with a 9-iron, and it went into the bluegrass beyond the green.

Brooks, meanwhile, was feathering a cut 4-wood from 229 yards to 45 feet from the hole. He was lying 2, Perry was 4 in the rough and Brooks' chip shot on to the green from there was within eight feet. He would not have to putt again. Brooks saw to that, lagging it up to four feet and making it.

Inscrutable to the end, Brooks squinted when he was asked what the victory would mean to him, beyond the fact that it makes him the favorite for Player of the Year and puts him atop the money list with $1.2 million.

"I don't know," he said. "I don't think it will change a whole lot. I mean, this doesn't change my focus or anything, like I'm going to start taking two weeks off before the majors. This was kind of a rare deal for me."

Key hole

A look at the key hole of the final round of the 78th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club:

Hole: 18

Yardage: 540

Par: 5

Stroke avg.: 4.617

Rank: 17

Key fact: Kenny Perry made bogey in regulation. Mark Brooks made a five-foot birdie putt to get into a playoff with Perry. Then in the playoff, Perry hit his first four shots down the left-hand rough, and Brooks two-putted for birdie to win.

The PGA The winner . . .

*M. Brooks .. .. ..68-70-69-70277

. . . and selected followers

K. Perry .. .. .. .66-72-71-68277

T. Tolles .. .. ...69-71-71-67278

S. Elkington .. ...67-74-67-70278

J. Leonard .. .. ..71-66-72-70279

V. Singh .. .. .. .69-69-69-72279

P. Mickelson .. ...67-67-74-72280

R. Cochran .. .. ..68-72-65-77282

*Won playoff

Complete scores, Page 9C

Pub Date: 8/12/96

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