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Coceres Wins Cat-and-Mouse Game

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In the land of Mickey, Jose Coceres said he felt like a mouse with a whole bunch of cats behind me.
 
Those cats never caught this mouse, as Coceres held on to better Davis Love III by a single shot at the National Car Rental Classic at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
 
It was very important for me to demonstrate that [winning] one tournament [was not] by accident, but now I demonstrated that I could win two and maybe why not three? said Coceres, who also won this years WorldCom Classic in a playoff over Billy Mayfair.
 
Coceres shot 4-under 68 to finish the tournament at 23-under 265.
 
Jerry Smith fired a career best 9-under 63 to tie David Peoples (66) for third place at 20-under; and, in the process, secure his 2002 PGA Tour card.
 
Scott McCarron, who played alongside Love and Coceres on Sunday, tied six others for sixth place at 18-under. McCarron shot 69.
 
Tiger Woods shot a Sunday 69 to tie for 16th at 16-under. Woods was making his first start after a five-week layoff.
 
I played halfway decent this week, said Woods, who won this event in 1996 and 99. Im very satisfied about 16-under-par after taking such a long time off. I just got lapped.
 
Tee times were pushed up Sunday, with the first threesome going out at 8:10 a.m. ET, due to the threat of inclement weather.
 
As it turned out, the final round should have started about 20 minutes earlier, as the threat of bad weather evolved into a reality.
 
The heavens opened wide at 2:32 p.m., with the last group standing in the middle of the fairway on the 72nd hole.
 
A 48-minute delay ensued. After hitting a few balls on the range, the threesome of Coceres, Love and McCarron returned to the final hole.
 
Coceres hit first, leaving his approach shot 20 feet short of the hole, while Love put his second shot to 12 feet.
 
Concerned more with two-putting than making the first one, Coceres left his birdie effort knee-knockingly short of the cup. Love then added to the pressure by sinking his birdie putt.
 
'It was exciting for just a minute,' Love said.
 
Needing to save par from six feet to capture the title, Coceres did just that. Afterwards, he hoisted a white towel wishing all the mothers in Argentina a Happy Mother's Day, particularly his own. Sunday was Mother's Day in his homeland.
 
'This was the best gift I could have given her,' he said. 'If this isn't the best, she'll have to pick another one.'
 
For Love, it proved to be a bittersweet finish. Battling a sore neck, Love earned his second top-5 finish in as many weeks; though, hes still seeking his first victory since the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February.
 
Im happy to have had a chance, Love said. The plan was to come out and play four (straight) weeks and give myself a chance to win, and Im headed in the right direction.
 
Coceres took a three-shot lead into the final round, but let the field get back into contention by posting a 1-under 35 on the front nine.
 
As the final threesome made the turn, eight players were within two shots of Coceres 20-under-par lead.
 
Thats when the rains came and seemingly doused the red-hot scoring many had experienced on the front side.
 
Coceres, on the other hand, followed a birdie at the 9th with two more on Nos. 10 and 11.
 
He moved to 22-under, two shots clear of Smith, who was already in the clubhouse, and Love, who had tied Coceres for the lead at 19-under by birdieing the 8th hole, but bogeyed the 9th when he snapped his tee shot into the left trees.
 
Love did manage to keep pace with his playing companion early on the back by birdieing the 11th and 13th holes, but after placing his second shot ' a 3-wood from 262 yards ' into the front bunker on the par-5 14th, Love barely got his third shot out of the sand. He made a disappointing par, and fell three off the pace as Coceres made birdie.
 
Love cut the lead to two after hitting his tee shot on the par-3 15th to five feet. That difference remained until home hole.
 
Though it's Coceres' second victory of the season, its also just his second top-10 finish; therefore, Coceres is still outside the top-30 on the money list with one event remaining until the Tour Championship.
 
He is scheduled to play in the upcoming Buick Challenge.
 
Coceres moves from 56th in earnings to 33rd with the $612,000 paycheck. Hes collected $1,496,122 this season, not bad for someone who grew up with 10 siblings in a two-bedroom home in Chaco, Argentina.
 
Coceres almost skipped this weeks tournament. Had it not been for the cancellation of the Estoril Open, Coceres would have been playing a string of events on the European Tour.
 
Instead, the 38-year-old PGA Tour rookie stayed in the States, and it paid off.
 
Coceres has transformed from a kid who learned how to play the game by hitting rocks with sticks to a multiple winner on golfs biggest stage.
 

News, Notes and Numbers
 
*Coceres become the 52nd player to earn over $1 million on the PGA Tour this season.
 
*Coceres is the ninth player to win multiple times this year on tour. He is also the first International (non-European, non-American) player to win this tournament in its 31-year history.
 
*Jerry Smith collected $197,200 for his tie for third. He moves from 120th on the money list into 82nd place.
 
*Danny Ellis, who lives in nearby Longwood, aced the 183-yard, par-3 14th, using a 6-iron.
 
Full-field scores from the NCR Golf Classic