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BROOKS GETS IT DONE: A TEXAS TWO-STEP HELPS WIN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

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Mark Brooks turned a partisan gallery's dream of a Kentucky victory dance into a Texas two-step Sunday to win the 78th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.

"I feel very lucky . . .," said Brooks, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas.Step One: Shooting a 2-under-par 70 for 277 to force a playoff with Kentucky native Kenny Perry, who charged with a 68.

Step Two: Birdieing the first extra hole as Perry was being devoured by the native Kentucky bluegrass rough.

"I never thought I was out of it," Brooks said.

The 5-9, 150-pound player who doesn't like for his confident, gritty style to become tangled with emotion wasn't overcome by his accomplishment during a press conference.

"Well, I don't know what you want me to do," said Brooks, who is a member of the same Fort Worth club - Colonial - as legend Ben Hogan. "I'm very happy. I celebrate with my family and close friends. I don't have eight million friends out there.

"My best friends are PGA golf pros . . . but I was taught a long time ago that if you drop your guard, then the other guy knows what's going on. So I try not to drop my guard."

Brooks, who thrived on streaks during the week, made six straight birdies in the first round, and closed the second round with four straight. But he needed a lone birdie on the 72nd hole - the par-5 18th - to tie Perry, who had bogeyed it a half hour earlier.

His second shot - a 31/2-wood from the fairway - landed in a bunker fronting the green, and caught a slightly sidehill lie.

"It was just one of those bunker shots that you open up the clubface and swing as hard as you can and hope you catch a lot of sand," he said. "And it just came out perfect."

Brooks was left with a birdie putt of about 3 feet. "And I wouldn't want to make that putt again, either," he said.

In the process of winning his first major championship with an 11-under-par total, Brooks overcame both home-state long shots - third-round leader Russ Cochran of Paducah, who collapsed with 77 for 282, and Perry of Franklin.

"The fans were courteous," said Brooks, who played in the final twosome with Cochran - a two-stroke leader after a course-record 65 on Saturday. "I think they would have been even if Russ had hung in there . . . they were not rude people."

The victory, worth $430,000, was the third of the season for Brooks, tieing Phil Mickelson for most wins this year, and the seventh of his 12-year career on the PGA Tour.

In the playoff that started on No. 18, Brooks drove perfectly, reached the green in two and two-putted for his fourth birdie of the tournament on the hole. By the time he'd reached the green, the outcome wasn't in question.

Perry was in the rough four times on the playoff hole - twice to the left and twice behind the green - and never putted out. That demise followed his bogey in regulation.

"The 18th is a wide-driving hole," Perry said. "It's really not that hard off the tee."

So what happened?

"I just swung too hard, I guess, or got too excited and came over the top of it and pulled it left down in the weeds," he said.If Perry could have sunk a 7-footer at 18 in regulation to save par, Brooks would have needed an eagle at the 18th to tie. In rushing to the lead, Perry had birdied Nos. 8, 9, 11, 13 and 14 to get to 12-under-par.

It was the second consecutive playoff, third in the last four years and 14th overall in this fourth and final major of the season. Australia's Steve Elkington beat Colin Montgomerie last year at Los Angeles, and Paul Azinger defeated Greg Norman at Toledo, Ohio, in 1993.

Elkington, who was attempting to become the first defending champ to repeat in 59 years, closed with 70 for 278 and tied for third place with Tommy Tolles of Flatrock, N.C.

Brooks, a two-time all-America at the University of Texas, became the third American player to win a major this year, following Steve Jones in the U.S. Open and Tom Lehman in the British Open.

Asked what it means to win a major, he wasn't sure.

"I guess they talk about a 10-year exemption (on the PGA Tour) and all that business," Brooks said. "But I don't know. That's a long time. . . . I'm in the Masters a number of times, so maybe I can figure that golf course out.

"Maybe I won't play 35 tournaments every year like I have been, but I'll still play my fair share and keep trying to win golf tournaments. This doesn't change my focus."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

PGA officials liked Valhalla

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Enormous crowds, enthusiastic support and an exciting 73 holes of golf impressed officials enough to announce the PGA Championship will return to Louisville's Valhalla Golf Club in 2000.

PGA of America chief executive officer Jim Awtrey made the announcement Sunday on the 18th green in front of several thousand fans who had just watched Mark Brooks beat Kentuckian Kenny Perry in a one-hole playoff to win the tournament.

Awtrey told the fans that he was sorry they wouldn't get to see the awards ceremony, which was being moved into a tent because it was starting to rain.

"But you'll get to see it in the year 2,000," he said, to a cheer.

The PGA later released a statement in which Awtrey cited the condition of the golf course and the enthusiasm of the fans for the decision.