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His kind of course

Posted: March 14, 2008 3:44 a.m.
Updated: May 15, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Tom Purtzer takes a swing in Thursday's AT&T Champions Classic Pro-Am held at the Valencia Country Club. Purtzer won the Classic last year.

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You get the same story from a lot of golfers who competed in last year's AT&T Champions Classic.

Either they were on the road, in the hotel packing or for one, laid out and recovering from back issues.

They missed a great show.

Tom Purtzer remembers it.

The first memory now starts when he pulls up to the Valencia Country Club parking lot.

In the spot nearest to the clubhouse, reserved for him, a sign displays his name and 2003 * 2007 champion.

The next memory comes when he reaches the locker room.

A black and gold plaque rests on a locker, on the side nearest to the door, displaying his name again and 2003 * 2007 champion.

Then another memory flashes before has he reaches the 18th green, the hole closest to the clubhouse.

"The ups and downs of last year is what I remember most," Purtzer says.

The 56-year-old is too humble to tell you he's king of the Valencia Country Club course, but the numbers don't lie.

Confidence, not a crown, is what he tells you he has.

His worst finish in Valencia tourneys is tied for 14th.

Thrown in there are ties for third and seventh, a sixth-place finish and the two titles.

Last year's was the most exciting win of his career.

Purtzer felt like he was out of contention after bogeying on 17.

He went into the clubhouse after a birdie on 18 and waited and hoped.

The final group made their approach to the green on 18.

Loren Roberts needed to make a 19-footer win the tournament, but could not deliver on the difficult try.

He parred, setting up a sudden-death playoff.

Purtzer trailed Hale Irwin by five strokes after the first round, then cut it to three heading into the final round.

Irwin's lead evaporated, allowing Roberts and Purtzer in, leading to the drama.

In sudden death, each could not gain an upper hand as they went par-par on the first two tries.

Roberts parred the next hole, forcing Purtzer to duplicate.

But Purtzer, who has said time and again that putting is not his strong suit, faced a 15-footer on an undulated green.

He recalls a calm.

With fans hovering and surrounding him in the grandstands and the trophy being shined near the scorer's canopy, Purtzer thought back to a putting lesson he received earlier in the week from golfer Dave Stockton.

"That's all I was thinking about. I was just picking out a spot in front of my ball and then one little thing with my stroke and that's all," Purtzer says.

He struck the ball and rolled over the bumps and into the cup.

He wasn't done.

Purtzer had to duplicate the trick on the next playoff hole, again on 18, this time three feet farther away.

Again he sunk it.

Roberts missed his, giving Purtzer the title again.

Jay Haas, the 2007 Champions Tour Player of the Year, recalls being on the road while this was happening.

He finished tied for 22nd in last year's event.

"I always like to see exciting stuff. I like to see players whether it's baseball, basketball, football, golf whatever it is, I like to see them win the game or the tournament. I hate to see the other guy give it away," Haas says. "Any time you get athletes get the adrenaline pumping they can do things maybe they wouldn't (normally do)."

Purtzer has a strong reputation in the tour of being a consistent hitter and a big driver.

"He's one of our best ball strikers - always has been," Haas says.

But Purtzer says he hasn't been playing well of late.

He finished tied for 21st in last week's Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach.

Purtzer says it's a course that's not accommodating to his game.

He's ranked No. 17 on this year's money list.

But once he steps onto the Valencia Country Club course ...

"I just have lots of confidence when I come here," Purtzer says. "I feel like I know where I want to hit the ball. I know where I want to play from to get your second shots in the right spot."

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