Kirk Triplett remembers when he first played at Newport Beach Country Club some 30 years ago, in the Crosby Southern Pro-Am.
His partner was a local golfer, Newport Beach resident Tom Casey.
“My wife and I became good friends with him,” Triplett said. “We kept in touch with his family over the years. When I first came back here, like the year before I turned 50, he sent me stuff about Newport Beach Country Club when I was 49. He said, ‘OK, next year this week, you and I are going to have dinner together.’ ”
Triplett, 56, made his sixth start at the Hoag Classic last week. He did so for the first time without having dinner with Casey, who died in February.
Triplett dedicated his tournament victory Sunday to his friend. He certainly won it in exciting fashion.
Triplett spun in a birdie on the par-five 18th hole in regulation to force a two-man playoff with Woody Austin, as both finished the three rounds at 10-under-par 203. He did the same on the second playoff hole, also No. 18, making a 12-foot eagle putt that broke from left to right to secure the win.
“Woody had a very makeable birdie putt to extend it, so I wasn’t just trying to make a four and make him make his,” said Triplett, who was presented a Hoag lab coat after his victory. “I was trying to make that putt to end the tournament. And it was the exact same putt I had the first time through.”
It’s the first Hoag Classic title and seventh PGA Tour Champions win for Triplett, who came from four shots back on the final day to secure the $270,000 first-place check after starting at seven under.
Jeff Maggert and Scott McCarron tied for third place at nine under, while Paul Goydos of Coto de Caza, Steve Flesch and second-round leader Fran Quinn all tied for fifth at eight under.
McCarron had an eagle putt on No. 18 that would have won the tournament. Instead, he three-putted for par as he missed joining Triplett and Austin in the playoff.
It came down to Triplett and Austin, in the sixth playoff in tournament history. Triplett forced the playoff on No. 18 in regulation. After his second shot landed in the rough in front of the green,next to a sand trap, he hit his third to within about 12 feet.
Austin’s third shot, from a similar spot but a bit closer to the green, went well past the hole.
“I tried to get mine to the left and next thing you know, it was running downhill going up there instead of running to the right,” Austin said. “It ran downhill past the hole, so that was a very tricky pin. I struggle on poa annua [grass], so I'm really happy with the finish, but I struggle on poa annua. I can't figure poa annua out, how to chip, putt, nothing.”
Triplett made his birdie putt, spinning it in from left to right to join Austin at 10 under. Austin couldn’t do the same, as his putt rolled right of the hole.
Both players made par on No. 18 on the first playoff hole. Triplett’s second shot on the second playoff hole carried the sand trap, and he sank the eagle putt for the victory.
Austin led for much of the latter half of the final round but three-putted the par-five 15th hole to miss a chance to extend his lead.
“[Triplett] hit three quality shots there to win, but I gave him a chance to win,” Austin said. “He should have never even had a chance. That's how it goes. I didn't get the job done when I was supposed to.”
Maggert shot a tournament-best 63 on Saturday and his 65 on Sunday also tied for the best round of the day. But he came up a bit short after a 76 on Friday, which included a five-putt triple-bogey on No. 18.
Quinn, meanwhile, began the day at 11 under and with a three-shot lead. He only needed to shoot even par on Sunday to secure his first PGA Tour Champions victory, but he had just one birdie and fired a 74.