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Wadkins Wins In 1st Start


Lanny Wadkins lived up to his lofty expectations in his Senior PGA Tour debut.

Wadkins became the ninth player in senior tour history to win in his first start, parring the third hole of a playoff in the ACE Group Classic on Sunday.

Wadkins, the 21-time PGA winner who turned 50 in December, beat Spain's Jose Maria Canizares with a par on the third extra hole. Tom Watson and Walter Hall dropped out with bogeys on the first playoff hole.

"It's kind of like an instinct takes over," said Wadkins, who won for the first time since the PGA Tour's 1992 Greater Hartford Open. "I kind of smell blood and that's what I wanted. I was about as focused as I think I've been in a long, long time."

The other players to win in their first tour starts are: Don January (1980, in the first official Senior PGA Tour event), Roberto DeVicenzo ('80), Arnold Palmer ('80), Rod Funseth ('83), Gary Player ('85), George Archer ('89), Jack Nicklaus ('90) and Bruce Fleisher ('99).

Wadkins closed with an 8-under-par 64 to match Watson (66), Canizares (67) and Hall (67) at 14-under 202 on the Pelican Marsh course.

It was the second time Wadkins beat Canizares in a head-to-head competition. In the 1983 Ryder Cup at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Wadkins nearly holed a wedge shot to beat Canizares and clinch a tie for the cup, which the United States retained with a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory.

On Saturday on the 18th hole, Wadkins knocked his approach shot in the water en route to a double-bogey. On Sunday, he made four straight pars, just missing birdie putts each time.

"As bad a shot as I hit there Saturday and making a double-bogey, to come back and play it four times and hit as many good shots as I did in there is very satisfying," he said. "I stuck it right at the hole every single time."

On the third playoff hole, Canizares hit his second shot in the water next to the green on the par-4 18th, which was the only hole used in the playoff.

Wadkins knocked his approach within 8 feet. After Canizares missed his 40-foot par putt, Wadkins almost made his birdie putt, then tapped in for the victory and $180,000.

Watson and Hall each bogeyed the first playoff hole to drop out of the playoff. Watson, who birdied four of the last six hole in regulation, hit his second shot into the water.

"I ended up in a divot," the five-time British Open champion said. "Not making any excuses. I just hit a bad shot. I came from well back, made a good charge, made a couple of critical putts when I had to."

Hall hit his second shot into a bunker en route to a bogey. Wadkins missed a 6-foot birdie putt.

Wadkins and Canizares then matched two-putt pars on the second playoff hole.

Wadkins, playing five groups ahead of Watson and six in front of Hall and Canizares, set the pace with birdies on five of his first seven holes to grab the lead. Wadkins birdied three of the first four holes on the back nine, but parred the final five.

"Walking up No. 18, I should've been able to be laughing and giggling," Wadkins said. "I knew I was letting people in. If the putts at Nos. 15, 16, 17, if any of those putts could've gone in, it could've been history."

Hall birdied four of the last six holes, but his approach shot on No. 18 ran over the green and into the water. However, after taking his drop on the putting surface, Hall holed a 15-footer for par to get into the playoff.

Allen Doyle, the 1999 winner, shot a 65 to finish fifth at 203. Stewart Ginn and Dana Quigley were another stroke back at 204.

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