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Hoch's delay proves smart move

MIAMI — Scott Hoch made the wait worthwhile Monday, winning the Ford Championship at Doral with two birdie putts that he could see all the way into the hole.

Hoch made a 9-foot birdie putt that he might have misread Sunday night in the dark. Then, he played three perfect shots on the 18th to beat Jim Furyk on the third playoff hole.

"I guarantee I wouldn't have done that last night," Hoch said.

It was a swift conclusion to a playoff that will remembered as much for how it was stopped than how it ended.

Hoch and Furyk, good friends and partners in the Ryder Cup, each had birdie putts on the second playoff hole Sunday evening as darkness quickly gathered. Hoch said he couldn't read the line and asked for the playoff to be suspended.

It turned out to be a good move.

Hoch's caddie, Damon Green, thought the putt would break slightly to the right.

"From what I saw (Sunday night), it was going to break left," Hoch said.

When he returned Monday morning, Hoch studied the putt from three directions and played it just inside the left edge. The ball curled in the right edge for a birdie, and Furyk matched him with a 6-footer that was good all the way.

"I wouldn't have read that right," Hoch said to his caddie as they walked off the green.

He hit his best drive of the tournament on No. 18, the most difficult hole on the Blue Monster, then hit a 9-iron from 148 yards that landed about 2 feet behind the hole and rolled 10 feet away.

Furyk hit into the bunker for the second time on No. 18 in the playoff. He hit a good shot to the green but missed his 25-foot birdie attempt.

"Scott played great," Furyk said. "There's not much I could do."

Hoch won for the 11th time in a career that is only now getting its due. He earned $900,000 and went past $1 million in earnings for the eighth straight year.

And just think, Hoch was on the verge of pulling out of the tournament five days ago because of a sore left wrist.

"I feel great now," he said.

Hoch has dealt with a number of nagging injuries during his career, and he has had eye surgery five times. That's one reason he wanted to wait Sunday evening, instead of trying to hit an important putt that he couldn't see.

The tournament took on even greater importance because Hoch, 47, doesn't know how many more chances he will have to win.

"You always wonder if that's going to be your last," he said. "Am I good enough to win?"

He was at Doral, a tournament where Raymond Floyd once won at 49.

Hoch and Furyk finished at 17-under 271, two shots ahead of Bob Tway.

Both made par on the first extra hole (No. 18), and both hit wedges for their third shots into the green on the 529-yard first hole — Hoch from 9 feet, Furyk from 6 feet.

The last time Hoch tried to finish in the dark, he had a three-putt bogey that cost him precious strokes in the 2001 U.S. Open. With a PGA Tour title on the line at Doral, he wasn't about to make the same mistake.

The decision wasn't popular with the thousands of fans who wanted to see a winner.

Hoch has good hearing, though, and he listened to the catcalls and chants as he and Furyk marked their balls, jumped into a cart and drove toward the clubhouse.

Furyk said he felt for the fans and tournament officials who wanted to see a winner at the end of the week. Still, he no problem with Hoch's decision.

"Everyone made too big a deal out of it," Furyk said. "It got dark last night. It's golf. We get rain delays, darkness delays all the time."

It was the first playoff at Doral in 12 years, and that won also was decided on Monday because of electrical storms that kept about two dozen players from finishing.

Hoch said his 16-year-old daughter, Katie, asked to stay home from school so she could watch the playoff on TV.

"She's already back in school," Hoch said. "She'll be happy now."