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Original Issue

Sudden Death Rate When it comes to overtime on Tour, all bets are off

Question: Why wasn't it surprising when Tiger Woods lost a
playoff to Billy Mayfair at the Nissan Open? Answer: Because the
playoff is golf's version of Russian roulette, a funky, fickle,
unpredictable competition that eventually gets the best of
everyone. Arnold Palmer lost a playoff to Howie Johnson. Ben
Hogan lost one to Leonard Dodson. Gary Player versus Don Whitt?
Whitt won, of course.

Hardly anyone escapes the playoff blues. Of the 248 PGA Tour
players who have participated in at least two playoffs, only 76
have winning records. (The chart below shows the records of the
10 Tour players with the most playoff experience.) In fact the
28 leading tournament winners of all time, with 999 victories
among them, are 135-149-2 for a winning percentage of just .472
in playoffs. (That 2 is no typo. After 11 holes of sudden death
at the 1949 Motor City Open, Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff
were declared co-champs.)

Some stars are stellar in playoffs. Walter Hagen was 5-1, Curtis
Strange is 6-3, Tom Watson 9-4. Some save their best, or worst,
for the majors. Nick Faldo lost an 18-hole playoff at the 1988
U.S. Open, but he won back-to-back green jackets in sudden death
at the 1989 and '90 Masters. Jack Nicklaus, a mere 11-9 in
overtime in regular tournaments, was a Bear in the Grand Slam
events. He won three of his four major playoffs, losing only to
Lee Trevino--and Lee's rubber snake--at the '71 U.S. Open.

At the other extreme is Palmer, who is also 14-10 in OT but only
1-3 when it counts most. From 1962 through '66 Arnie lost three
U.S. Open playoffs. Ben Crenshaw's 0-8 playoff record is even
worse, but since only one of his defeats came in a major, the
most painful playoff record of all may belong to Greg Norman and
Craig Wood. They're the only players to pull off the career
Reverse Grand Slam by losing playoffs in all four majors. Upon
completing his anti-Slam at the '93 PGA, where he lipped out
putts on both playoff holes to fall to Paul Azinger, Norman said
with chagrin, "At least I've been in there."

COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN SLAMMED The '93 PGA completed Norman's major playoff losses. [Greg Norman tossing putter]


Jack Nicklaus 70 14-10 3-1
Arnold Palmer 60 14-10 1-3
Ben Hogan 63 8-12 1-3
Sam Snead 81 10-8 1-1
Billy Casper 51 8-8 2-0
Raymond Floyd 22 4-11 0-1
Cary Middlecoff 40 7-6-1 0-1
Gary Player 21 3-10 1-1
Tom Watson 33 9-4 1-2
Doug Ford 19 5-7 0-0


Had Raymond Floyd won at Doral--he was one off the lead in the
third round--Floyd, 55, would have been the oldest man to win a
Tour event. Here are the five oldest winners.


Sam Snead 52 '65 Greensboro
Art Wall Jr. 51 '75 Milwaukee
Jim Barnes 51 '37 Long Island
John Barnum 51 '62 Cajun
Raymond Floyd 49 '92 Doral


Players tuning up for the Masters during the four-tournament
Florida swing may not want to shine too brightly in the Sunshine
State. Here are the best finishes in Florida by this decade's
Masters champions in the year they won the green jacket.

1997 Tiger Woods
T9th Bay Hill
1996 Nick Faldo
T9th Honda
1995 Ben Crenshaw
42nd Bay Hill
1994 Jose Maria Olazabal
14th Players
1993 Bernhard Langer
2nd Players
1992 Fred Couples
1st Bay Hill
1991 Ian Woosnam
T7th Bay Hill
1990 Nick Faldo
13th Bay Hill


Americans in the top 25 on the 1998 world money list, headed by
Tiger Woods, who has already earned $756,661.