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Lewis Steals Deere Playoff

The final difference between J.L. Lewis and Mike Brisky was one stroke and a few thousand dollars. Both, however, felt like winners Sunday in the John Deere Classic.

Lewis caught Brisky with a birdie on the 72nd hole, stayed alive in a playoff by holing out a sand shot for birdie, and finally won the tournament with a birdie on the fifth extra hole.

"I wouldn't have felt like I lost" had Brisky won the playoff, Lewis said after his first PGA Tour victory, worth $360,000.

"I'm not disappointed in the least," said Brisky, who pocketed $216,000. "I look at the tournament, I look at the four rounds, and I played well."

Lewis got into the playoff after hitting a wedge to within four feet at the 18th hole and making the birdie putt for a closing 65. Brisky, who also shot a 65, and Lewis completed 72 holes at 261, 19 shots under par for the 6,762-yard Oakwood Country Club course.

Both players made pars on the first playoff hole, the 18th, birdies at the 16th and pars at the 17th as the playoff continued. Lewis appeared to have the tournament won when he holed a sand shot at the par-4 16th for a birdie, only to have Brisky drop his own 12-15 footer for a tying birdie.

"He hit just a great bunker shot," Brisky said. "How exciting to be in the playoff."

"I thought I could get the ball up and down" at the 16th, Lewis said. "When it came out, it took a little right kick and I knew it was in."

This trophy deer doesn't go on a wall, but on a shelf.>
This trophy deer doesn't go on a wall, but on a shelf. (AP)

Both birdied the 18th, sending the playoff back to the 16th hole a second time.

Lewis drove into the left rough, but hit a sand wedge some four feet above the hole. Brisky drove down the middle, but his second shot was about 25 feet left of the pin. Brisky missed his birdie attempt and Lewis knocked in his winning putt.

"It's been a long haul," Lewis said. "I've improved a lot and I feel like the ability level is there. I just kept myself going. I kept believing I was a good player."

"I figured I had the game a long time ago, but I didn't have the experience. You have to keep believing you can do it. Now I know."

Brisky had a two-shot lead with two holes to play. But he three-putted the par-3 17th for a bogey and Lewis than got even with a birdie at the 18th.

Brisky, whose previous best finish was a second in the 1995 Buick Ope, trailed third-round leader Brian Henninger by three strokes heading into Sunday's final round. He took the lead with a birdie at the par-3 12th

Lewis, whose $360,000 winner's share increased his earnings for the year to $478,378, is the 12th first-time winner since the tournament moved to Oakwood County Club in 1975.

Henninger (71) and Kirk Triplett (64) finished at 264.

Defending champion Steve Jones shot a closing 63 for 265, joined by Chris Perry, who had weekend rounds of 63 and 64, and Peter Jordan, who shot 66 on Sunday.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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