By the time Davis Love III reached the 17th hole of the Freeport McMoRan Classic, the cheering crowd and the tournament leader had one thing on their minds - the Masters.
By the time Love bogied the 17th and the 18th, the crowd had quieted, Love had blown a two-stroke lead and Mike Heinen had another shot at the winner's share of the $1.2 million tournament.Love, who had not won a tournament since the Las Vegas Invitational in 1993 despite runs at the top spot in four outings this year, needed two holes of a sudden-death playoff to pull out a victory Sunday and sew up an invitation to Augusta.
"I've put myself in a position to win, I've backed into playoffs and I've lost," Love said. "Today, I just kept telling myself, `You're going to win the tournament. You're going to go to the Masters.' "
Love, who started the day at 13-under, watched Heinen, playing four holes ahead of him, forge ahead on six birdies and an eagle.
"I started playing my best when Mike made his eagle," Love said. "It spurred me on."
Then Heinen, who had moved to 16-under, ran into trouble himself. He hit into the water on 16 and finished with a double bogie and 14-under par.
"I figured that was it with the way Davis was playing," Heinen said.
Love shot the first nine in 31. He then slowly moved up on Heinen over the back nine, sinking birdies on 9, 10, 11 and 13.
On 17 and 18, Love hit into bunkers for bogies, falling into a tie with Heinen and setting up the playoff.
Love sank a 3-foot putt - "a very, very long 3-foot putt" - for birdie on the second hole for the victory and the $216,000 winners purse.
"I knew he was going to make his birdie," Heinen said. "I was just trying to make one to send it to another hole."
Instead, Heinen's 20-foot putt missed and he settled for second place and $129,600.
It was Love's ninth PGA victory, his first playoff win in four tries.
"I've collapsed a lot of times this year," Love said. "I think I've just been thinking too much about the Masters. It's been a lot of pressure all year."
It will be Love's sixth trip to the Masters. He missed the cut in 1988 and last year. His best finish was in 1992 when he tied for 25th.
"I'm going to have a lot more fun than anyone else next week," Love said, "because I waited longer to get there."
David Duval, who turned pro in 1993, had five birdies and two bogeys for a 67 and third place at 13-under. Craig Parry was fourth at 12-under and three players finished tied for fifth.