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Jones Makes Playoff a Big Payoff in Hope

Times Staff Writer

Steve Jones said he was ready to go home to Phoenix after shooting a 76 in the first round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

But he stayed, made the cut, and surprisingly won the tournament Sunday on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Paul Azinger and Sandy Lyle at Bermuda Dunes.

Jones owns the PGA Tour at this early juncture of the year, having also won the Tournament of Champions last week at La Costa.

It was only the third tour victory for the 30-year-old pro from Phoenix. He had won the AT&T; Pebble Beach pro-am last year in a playoff against Bob Tway.

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Jones received a first-place check of $180,000, to go along with his payoff of $135,000 at La Costa, by making a 4-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole, No. 14, a par 4 of 385 yards.

Azinger had a 1-stroke lead over Jones, a playing partner, and Lyle, who had already finished, going to the 18th hole, a par-5, 513-yard layout.

But Azinger, who had apparently taken command of the tournament with a birdie at the 15th hole, missed a 6-foot putt for a bogey to force a playoff.

“I hit the putt exactly where I wanted to, in the right center of the hole,” Azinger said. “And it was in with about a foot to go. Then, it leaked on me and I couldn’t believe it.

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“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would make a bogey.”

Jones just missed a birdie putt on 18, but easily saved his par.

“I didn’t know that Lyle was in the playoff, or that there would be three of us,” Jones said.

On the playoff hole, Azinger hit a driver into the left rough followed by a pitching wedge that carried to within 18 feet of the hole, where he 2-putted.

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Lyle drove into the right rough and his second shot was about 30 feet from the hole. Like Azinger, he 2-putted.

Jones hit a 1-iron off the tee and then skillfully used his 7-iron to draw the ball to within 4 feet of the hole.

“I shook it in there,” Jones said of his putt. “I don’t know how it went in.”

Jones seemed slightly dazed by his victories, the first time someone has swept the first two tournaments since 1983 when Gil Morgan won the Tucson and Los Angeles Opens.

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“It was thrilling,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it after the way I started.”

He was referring to his 76 on PGA West Wednesday when he was 5 over par after 16 holes.

Moreover, Jones said he has not played well here.

“I’ve only made the cut here once in 5 times. No, make it 2 times now,” he said.

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Jones qualified for his tour card in 1982, but because of an injury, he didn’t distinguish himself and had to re-qualify at the start of the 1985 season.

A 6-foot 4-inch, 185-pound former all-state high school basketball player from Yuma, Colo., Jones said he didn’t believe that he was ready for such an auspicious start.

“I’d only won 1 tournament in 5 years. Then, boom, boom I’ve won 2,” he said.

Jones, Lyle and Azinger finished regulation play at 343, 17 under par. They each shot a 69 on the final day of the 90-hole tournament.

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Jones, after shooting a course-record 63 at Eldorado Saturday, was 2 strokes behind Mark Calcavecchia, the fourth-day leader, at the outset of Sunday’s round.

Calcavecchia, who played with Jones and Azinger, had a 1 stroke lead over the field after 12 holes. However, he bogeyed the par-5, 564-yard 13th hole. Azinger and Jones got birdies.

Azinger then became the 1-stroke leader at 17 under par and improved his lead to 2 strokes over several contenders with a birdie at the par-4, 15th.

Jones closed to within one stroke of Azinger with a 20-foot chip shot for a birdie on the par-3, 212-yard 17th hole. He was emulating Calcavecchia, who made his birdie chip shot of about 17 feet a few minutes earlier.

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Calcavecchia was 2 strokes behind Azinger before the 18th hole. And he had a chance to get into a playoff, but he missed a 6-foot birdie putt as Jones parred the hole and Azinger bogeyed it.

Azinger’s approach shot on No. 18 was his undoing. He skulled his wedge, his third shot, and was about 50 feet from the pin. Then he three-putted, seemingly shocked that that the ball didn’t drop from 6 feet.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Azinger said. “After not playing well last week at La Costa, I wasn’t confident this week until today. I played well today, but I made a mistake that I shouldn’t have made. I should have won.”

Lanny Wadkins, playing ahead of Jones, Azinger and Calcavecchia, probably was also muttering about what might have been.

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He was 2 strokes behind Azinger, when he lined up an eagle putt of about 50 feet on the 18th hole. He was short of the hole by 3 feet and then missed his birdie try.

As it turned out, a birdie putt would have put him in the playoff.

Wadkins finished at 344 along with Kenny Knox, Fred Couples and Calcavecchia.

As for Jones, he’s heading to his hometown for the Phoenix Open next week. Three in a row? Not likely. But neither was two straight.

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BOB HOPE CLASSIC: THE TOP 10 * Steve Jones 76-68-67-63-69--343 Paul Azinger 69-68-70-67-69--343 Sandy Lyle 70-68-68-68-69--343 Lanny Wadkins 68-70-68-70-68--344 Kenny Knox 68-71-69-67-69--344 Fred Couples 65-71-71-68-69--344 Mark Calcavecchia 71-67-67-67-72--344 Hubert Green 73-70-65-68-69--345 Tom Kite 68-69-68-69-71--345 Bernhard Langer 70-68-68-69-70--345 * Won playoff.


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