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Holy Prognostication, Boy Wonder!

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Len Mattiace may have surprised many when he came from two shots back with three holes to play and won the Nissan Open Sunday at Riviera Country Club for his first PGA Tour victory, but he had at least one believer early in the week.

Actor Chris O’Donnell, who starred in “Batman & Robin,” and who played with Mattiace at Pebble Beach two weeks ago and is a close friend of Mattiace, had a premonition before the tournament.

“He said ‘Dude, you’re gonna win this week,’” Mattiace said. But Mattiace, who won for the first time in 220 starts, didn’t take much stock in O’Donnell’s power of prognostication.

“He says that every week,” Mattiace said.

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Mattiace may want to consider leaving his wife and two daughters at home in Jacksonville, Fla., more often.

His family normally travels with him, but stayed home for the West Coast swing this year, thus missing his first victory.

“My daughter is in [preschool] and needs to practice her letters,” Mattiace said. “So we thought they would stay home this week.” Mattiace said he planned on calling his wife as soon as possible.

“We’ll all cry together when I talk to them,” he said.

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Scott McCarron said he couldn’t strike up many conversations in the locker room after he blew a two-shot lead with three holes in the final round, but not because he was at a loss for words.

“Nobody would talk to me,” he said. “It was like I had the plague.” With those words still rolling off his tongue, McCarron’s cell phone rang and he shot a quick glance at the caller ID indicator. “My mom is calling me,” he said, smiling. “She still loves me.”

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McCarron said the loss would not fester long, especially with the World Match Play championships beginning Wednesday. He said he’s looking forward to his first-round match against Scotsman Colin Montgomerie, who lives in England.

“It looks like I’ve got Montgomerie,” McCarron said. “I’m gonna make his trip short.”

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Fred Funk did his best to make it a banner day for the University of Maryland, but couldn’t keep a hot streak going long enough.

Funk, who coached the Maryland golf team from 1982-88, had a string of five consecutive birdies going on Nos. 7-11 right around the time the Maryland basketball team was upsetting top-ranked Duke.

Funk pulled within two shots of the lead, but bogeys at 15 and 16 put him out of contention.

Funk finished at 10-under-par, in a tie for ninth.

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Charles Howell III used a course-record, seven-under 28 on the front nine to get in contention Saturday, but shot 34 on the same holes Sunday and could not make a further move.

Howell, 22, is among a select few of young PGA Tour pros expected to blossom into a rival for Tiger Woods over the next few years.

He began the day four shots out of the lead, shot 69 and finished three shots back in a tie for sixth.

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“I didn’t get started off good enough today,” Howell said.

“You’ve got to do that if you want to win, especially in the last round of a tournament.”

The sixth-place finish was the ninth top-10 in 44 starts for Howell, including three in his five starts this year.

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David Duval played the first three holes in the final round Sunday, then withdrew citing illness.

Duval, who began the day tied for 10th at seven-under, didn’t sleep well Saturday night because of a stomach virus, according to a PGA Tour spokesman. Duval let tour officials know he would likely not finish his final round, but wanted to give it a try anyway. He started birdie, bogey, bogey before pulling out.

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The PGA Tour has had six come-from-behind winners in seven events this year. The only third-round leader that held on to win was Jerry Kelly in the Sony Open.

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Final attendance for the four days of the Nissan Open was 121,808. Sunday’s 45,872 was the highest single-day total.


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