Lickliter Holds On For Victory

By Associated PressMarch 2, 2003, 5:00 pm
TUCSON, Ariz. -- TUCSON, Ariz. -- Frank Lickliter II overhauled his swing and his mental approach to the game in an attempt to challenge golf's best, namely Tiger Woods.
While Woods was winning the Match Play Championship in California on Sunday, Lickliter's new skills were on full display in his victory Sunday in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
''This is another stepping stone in where I want to be,'' he said.
The 33-year-old golfer withstood the wind, rain, a charge by Chad Campbell and a shot into the water off the 18th tee to win by two shots.
Lickliter, who began the day with a four-shot lead over Campbell and Steve Flesch, shot a final round 3-under-par 69 to finish at 19-under 269. It was Lickliter's second PGA victory and first since he began his makeover 18 months ago.
Lickliter clinched it with an amazing 5-iron shot to the 18th green that landed four feet from the pin.
''That's the best iron shot I hit all week,'' he said. ''It's rather exciting, because I had nothing but positive thoughts when I made that swing.''
He made the putt for par and raised his club to the cheering crowd.
Campbell, runner-up for the second time in his two seasons on the PGA Tour, pulled into a tie with Lickliter at 19-under with three holes to play, but bogeyed the 16th and 18th to finish at 17-under 171. Campbell moved into contention with a 9-under 63 on Saturday, then had a final round 5-under 67.
Brenden Pappas shot a 68 on Sunday to take third at 16-under 272. Bob Tway and Andy Miller wound up at 15-under 273.
After a 49-minute suspension of play because of the threat of lightning, Lickliter came to the last tee with a one-stroke lead over Campbell. But Lickliter's drive rolled downhill into the water on the par-4, 465-yard 18th, considered one of the tougher holes on the tour.
Campbell, also using a driver, hit his shot into the water, too.
''It was the wrong club,'' he said. ''I should have used a 3-wood, especially after he hit his shot into the water. It might have been a different ending. You never know.''
Lickliter's drop out came to rest on a steep slope. His 5-iron shot soared high into the gray sky and came to rest just above the pin. When Campbell's 30-foot putt was short and he finished with a bogey, Lickliter could have two-putted and still won.
The dramatic finish was interrupted when play was suspended with the leaders on the 17th green.
''I'm surprised they waited so long,'' Lickliter said. ''When I was on the 17th tee, I saw a string of lightning go across the sky.''
Weather had been a problem all week on the par-72, 7,109-yard course at the Omni Tucson National Golf Course and Spa.
As the wind kicked up, rain began and thunder rumbled in the background, Campbell pulled into a tie for the lead at 19-under by knocking in an eight-foot birdie putt on the par-5, 663-yard 15th hole.
But Campbell three-putted from 25 feet on the par-4, 437-yard 16th to fall a shot behind. Both players had pars on the 17th.
Lickliter had blown a chance to expand the lead to two shots when he missed a 4-foot putt for birdie on the 14th. On the 16th, he saved par with a bunker shot he called ''one of the best golf shots I have hit ever.''
He had led since his 9-under 63 in the second round, just the second player to win the tournament after leading at the halfway point. The other was David Duval in 1998.
The $540,000 first prize was Lickliter's second-largest payday in his eight years on the tour and moved him into 12th on this year's money list. He earned $630,000 by winning the Kemper Insurance Open in 2001.
Lickliter finished 19th on the money list that year, but he missed every cut the final two months of the season and decided a major change was in order. The overhaul began 18 months ago with coach Randy Sonnier.
''It's validation that I know I'm going in the right direction,'' Lickliter said. ''It gives me faith in myself, and even more faith in Randy now. Every time we talk I learn more about golf.''
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Chrysler Classic of Tucson
  • Full coverage of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson
  • Full coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
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