Golf

Wiebe ends Champions Tour drought

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CONOVER, N.C. (AP)

Mark Wiebe felt terrible about missing his induction into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.

His decision to go to work instead was a good one – even if he had to put in overtime.

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Hours before he was to be honored on the other side of the country, Wiebe won his first Champions Tour title in three years Sunday at Rock Barn. He holed a par putt on the third playoff hole after a weather delay and won the Greater Hickory Classic when Monday qualifier James Mason missed a 4-foot putt.

''It was tough because I want to be there. It's a great honor to be elected into the golf hall of fame in Colorado,'' Wiebe said. ''But I work for a living, this is what I do. I never thought about not coming. I just didn't know how to say it a nice way, 'Why didn't you have the dinner on a Monday?'''

The 53-year-old Wiebe, who shot a 7-under 65 in regulation, snapped a 77-tournament winless streak.

For the 60-year-old Mason, it was heartbreak finish to what was nearly a career-changing week.

Mason, whose last win came in 2002, was playing in his first Champions Tour event of the year. He had lost his playing privileges and was 0 for 5 in qualifiers until he shot 62 last Monday, including an ace, to get into the field.

But his three-putt from just over 20 feet on the par-3 17th ended his chances of earning a one-year playing exemption.

''A win would have meant everything. It would have been the culmination of my career,'' said Mason, who wore purple knickers Sunday while shooting 65. ''That probably would have given me another year and a half out here. I still get a nice check, but a win would have been a total redo of my career again. But hopefully I'll get one.''

In a tournament played in intense heat that yielded a 54-hole Champions Tour record 1,147 birdies, Wiebe and Mason each birdied the 18th in regulation to finish at a tournament-record 19 under. That moved them past clubhouse leader Fred Funk, who shot a 62 to tie for third with Chip Beck (66).

Loren Roberts (65) and Nick Price (66) tied for fifth, two shots back. Jeff Sluman (67) finished alone in seventh, three back.

Bob Tway, who led by one shot after the first and second rounds, faded after a double-bogey on the sixth. He shot 71 and tied for eighth.

Wiebe and Mason then staged a bizarre finish.

Both players made nearly identical 15-foot birdie putts on the first playoff hole at No. 18. Immediately after Mason's putt, the horn blew as a storm moved into the area. Play was delayed for just over an hour amid thunder and lightning, but little rain.

Wiebe scrambled to change his flight and talked to his son, who was to represent him at the Hall of Fame dinner Sunday night. For a while, he and Mason sat in their carts near the clubhouse chatting before a small window before another expected storm had the players hustling back to the 18th tee.

Wiebe missed a birdie putt from 15 feet to send the players back to No. 17.

Wiebe's tee shot on the par-3 landed 40 feet left of the hole. His first putt ran five feet by, but he curled in the par putt. Mason aggressively sent his birdie putt past the hole, then missed the comebacker for his first bogey of the day.

''I feel for James,'' Wiebe said. ''I'm tickled to have won this tournament, beside myself, so happy. I'm sorry for James that's the way it happened for him. He played great this week.''

Funk's 62 ended a wild week which began when he earned a spot in next week's U.S. Open in sectional qualifying. Two days later he jammed his left thumb when he hit a railing with his club on the deck at Rock Barn during a warmup swing.

He was in so much pain he had to quit after 14 holes in Thursday's pro-am, but got a cortisone shot that night and said he felt better Sunday.

He sure played like it.

Funk took the outright lead with a birdie on 16 and faced the prospect with a birdie-eagle finish of the recording the Champions Tour's first 59.

''It did enter my mind,'' Funk said.

But Funk narrowly left a birdie putt short on 17 and his approach shot to 18 from 65 yards came up well short of the hole. He then missed the long birdie putt and could only watch as Wiebe and Mason moved past him.

Wiebe figured his victory would change his son's acceptance speech at the hall of fame dinner.

''They'll have something to talk about,'' Wiebe said. ''That's good, right?''

Tagged: Fred Funk, Mark Wiebe, James Mason

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