[ TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP ]
opportunities cost Kite
at Turtle Bay Championship
Short putts and par-5s prove
to be problems for Kite, who led
going into the final round
You don't win golf tournaments on the Champions Tour when you miss short putts and bogey par-5s. Tom Kite did both yesterday and it cost him the Turtle Bay Championship on the North Shore.
When Kite came to the 18th hole yesterday -- a gambling par-5 that features a long second shot across water -- he needed a birdie to tie Hale Irwin and force a playoff.
The veteran Texas golfer accepted the challenge. After driving nicely down the right center of the fairway, he had 230 yards left to the green and went for it with his 3-wood.
"I had the distance that I thought I could get there," he said. "All I needed was to hit a solid shot. I hit a solid shot, but didn't get the height I needed."
The ball came up just short, careening off the rocks fronting the green and into the water. Kite ended up with a bogey and a second-place, 72--210 finish. It was his third bogey on a par-5 for the day and his fourth second place finish in 2003, a year in which he has not had a victory.
"When you make three 6s on par-5s, you're not going to do well," he said. "That was the difference in the tournament. I missed too many short putts out there and it cost me."
Kite entered yesterday's final round leading the field by two shots, but quickly saw that lead disappear when he stabbed two short putts of less than three feet and made bogeys at the par-5 third and ninth holes.
For Kite, missed short putts have become an all too familiar problem. In late August, he blew a chance at a playoff with Tom Watson when he jabbed a five-footer on the final hole of the JELD-WEN Tradition, a major event on the Champions Tour.
For the year, he ranks second in greens hit in regulation on the Champions Tour but 53rd in putting average, with 30.3 putts per round.
It is not the long putts, however, that give Kite trouble. Indeed, he holed four sizeable putts yesterday -- including a 25-footer for birdie at 14, and a 40-footer for birdie at 16 -- that kept him in the hunt for the Turtle Bay title.
Had Kite simply made pars at the third and ninth holes yesterday, he would have come to the 18th hole with a one-shot lead and not have been forced to gamble on his second shot.
Ironically, Irwin had just that luxury. Playing one group ahead of Kite, he too faced a 230-plus yard shot across the water at 18, but chose to lay up short of the green and made his par.
Irwin noted that the rain squall that hit the course as the final groups were finishing reduced the fairway roll at 18, forcing the late finishers to hit a slightly longer second shot across the water to get home in two. He said he was glad to have the lead and the option of laying up.
No one had to tell Tom Kite that he should have been in the same position.