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PRICE TAKES CHALLENGE, PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

SHARE PRICE TAKES CHALLENGE, PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Nick Price walked onto the second tee at the PGA Championship, looked at the final-round leaderboard and knew what he had to do.

"When I saw that Greg (Norman) went birdie-birdie, I knew I had to play some golf," Price said.And play some golf he did.

Price shot a 3-under-par 67 at Southern Hills Country Club on Sunday to take his second PGA Championship in three years and become the first man to win consecutive major championships in a dozen years.

His 11-under-par 269 was the lowest stroke total ever in an American major championship and was six strokes ahead of runnerup Corey Pavin.

Price all but ended the tournament when he responded to Norman's challenge with birdies on Nos. 3 and 4.

"That made me relax a little," Price said. "But I didn't really believe I had it until the birdie on No. 16."

He could have believed it earlier. Price shot 32 on the front nine and was so dominating that only two players managed to pick up as much as a single stroke on him. His final-round 67 was bettered only by Nick Faldo and Brad Faxon, who shot 66.

"Today I probably played the best nine holes of my entire life, the front nine," Price said. "I knew what I had to do. I was never so nervous. But I'm just so proud of how I played the front nine."

Price, who has been virtually invincible since winning the PGA in 1992, crushed the morale of everyone with his early rush.

"It made it difficult to have hope out there," Pavin said. "He got off to such a great start we were all playing for second."

A missed 6-foot par putt on the last hole cost Price a share of the PGA record of 12-under-par set by Jeff Sluman in 1988 and tied by Paul Azinger and Greg Norman last year. His 269 broke the PGA stroke record of 271, 9-under, by Bobby Nichols in 1964.

Price's six-stroke margin missed by one stroke of matching the record set by Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 PGA.

The victory, coupled with his British Open triumph last month, made Price the first player to win consecutive major championships since Tom Watson won the U.S and British Opens in 1982. And it made Price the first player to win two majors in the same year since Nick Faldo won the Masters and British Open in 1990.

No one had won the British Open and the PGA in the same year since Walter Hagen in 1924.

It was a dominating performance by Price from start to finish. He made only seven bogeys in 72 holes and went 38 consecutive holes without a bogey.

His rounds of 67-65-70-67 followed rounds of 69-66-67-66 in the British Open and extended an unbelievable run that started when Price won the 1992 PGA. Since the start of 1992, Price has 16 victories and 45 top-10 finishes in 82 tournaments.

This victory added $310,000 to the $1 million he had already won on the PGA Tour and in Europe this year.

The victory by the 37-year-old Zimbabwean also meant that Americans won none of the four major golf championships this year for the first time.

Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain won the Masters, Ernie Els of South Africa took the U.S. Open and Price won the British Open.

Although Norman, Faldo and Phil Mickelson made early noise, none was able to keep it going.

Pavin was the steadiest, making 17 pars and a birdie for a 69 and a 275 total.

Mickelson was 6-under at one point, but double bogeyed No. 16 and finished with a 70 and was third at 276, seven strokes behind Price.

"Nick just waxed us all," Mickelson said.

Faldo got to 4-under for the tournament at No. 14 but ran out of gas and finished with a final-round 66 for 3-under-par 277, eight strokes behind. Norman shot 70 and was also at 277, along with John Cook, who finished with a 70.

Tied at 2-under were Steve Elkington of Australia and Olazabal.

Price said after the third round that he would be more aggressive on Sunday. And he was.

With the sun sliding in and out behind a cloud cover that knocked the sizzling 95-degree temperatures of the first three rounds into the 80s, a relaxed, poised Price chatted casually on the first tee, asking the scoreboard boy his name and responding to shouts of "Go Nick' and "Good luck, Nick" with a casual "Thanks" and a wave.

He made routine pars on the first two holes, splitting the fairways and hitting the center of the green on both.

Then on No. 3 he hit his approach to 18 inches for a tap-in birdie, following that with a 41/2-foot birdie putt on No. 4.

Price was playing this Sunday like Hogan, Nicklaus or Watson at their best. He hit fairways and greens and kept the pressure on.

When he rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on No. 8 to get to 11-under, he lifted his putter in the air in triumph and the crowd roared as if he had just won the tournament. And he pretty much had.

Any idea that he might crumble was ended on the ninth hole when Price hit his approach shot two yards over the green and chipped to about six feet.

As he waited to putt, he glanced at the scoreboard and saw that he was six strokes ahead.

Price walked up to the putt and calmly made it to save par.

It was putts of that length - the 4-to-8 foot range - that had been all but automatic for Price all week.

He started the back nine with a birdie to lead by seven strokes, bogeyed No. 11 when he uncharacteristically failed to get up and down after missing the green, but got it back with a birdie on No. 13. He made his sixth bogey of the tournament when he three-putted No. 15. But once again, he bounced right back, making a birdie on No. 16 when he hit his approach shot to 5 feet.

His only real sign of being human came on No. 18 when he missed one of the few short putts he had missed all week and missed a chance to tie Nicklaus for the margin-of-victory record.

It was about the only mistake he made.