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Tiziani Takes Northern Ontario Open

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario -- The way Mario Tiziani played with a healthy lead during Sundays final round of the Canadian Tours Northern Ontario Open, organizers may just have well saved some time and engraved the championship trophy Saturday night.
Carrying a four-shot edge into the final round, Tiziani carded a 2-under 68 at Sault Ste. Marie GC and finished with a 72-hole total of 9-under 271, six shots better than Aussies Tony Carolan and David McKenzie. Darren Griff of Salt Spring Island finished in a tie for fourth with rookies Mike Hospodar and Kris Mikkelsen at 1-under.
Just six of the 62 players finished under par, the lowest since the 2002 Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship when five wound up in the red.
Despite the comfortable cushion with just 18 holes to play, Tiziani went in with the mindset of not playing conservative and instead chose to stick with the game plan that had got him there. Any doubts that Tiziani was suffering from final-round jitters were put to rest early when he birdied his second hole of the day to get to 8-under. McKenzie pulled to within three at the turn, but fell five off the pace after 11. A curling 20-foot birdie putt on number 16 rubber-stamped Tizianis first official Tour win.
I didnt want to give anyone any chance to get back into this thing, and I was able to do that, said Tiziani. I watched the leaderboard all day long. I figure if I cant do it here, what am I going to do on a bigger stage? If I put pressure on myself, I knew it would help me in the long run. These guys out here are like sharks'if they see an opening, they will make their move. They needed some help from me to try to get a win here, and I didnt give them that chance.
Besides the $20,653 payday, Tiziani won a berth in this weeks Nationwide Tour CPGA Championship at DiamondBack Golf Club. He had planned on flying out Sunday to be in suburban Toronto in time for Mondays qualifying round, but now he we will be able to kick back and prepare for the event knowing he has sewn up a spot in the starting field.
For the 32-year-old Chanhassen, MN, resident, Sundays triumph could be seen as sweet vindication after a near-miss one year ago at the Bay Mills Open in nearby Brimley, MI. Carrying a one-shot lead into the final round there, Tiziani would finish second to former U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney. Tiziani admitted he wasnt firing on all cylinders in Bay Mills, but for most of this week, he was in a zone, despite Mother Natures attempt at throwing players a curve ball with cool temperatures, rain and wind all week long.
I guess this gets a little bit of a monkey of my back, he admitted. I have had a few chances out here, and the biggest one was last year across the bridge (in Brimley). It can creep into your mind, but you cant think about things like that. The last three and a half rounds Ive probably hit the best irons in my life. Coming in, I figured I had done it right for 70 rounds, so why not a couple more?
Tiziani and his wife Kressi celebrated the birth of their second daughter, McKella, just a couple of months ago.
Winning championships seems to run in the Tiziani family. Sunday may have marked the first official Canadian Tour win for him, but Tiziani won the 2002 Panasonic Panama Open, an unofficial event that featured a stellar field in Coronado Beach, Panama. Three-time PGA Tour winner Steve Stricker is married to Marios sister, Nicki, who recently won the Madison, Wis., womens championship. Father Dennis coaches Stricker and Tiziani and while having such a famous brother-in law can certainly have its advantages on the driving range, Tiziani wants to build his own reputation and be judged on his own merits. He may have a long haul in front of him if he plans on catching Stricker in career earnings, but Tiziani, one of the best pure ball strikers on the Canadian Tour, is now writing himself an impressive resume.
I think I am beginning to establish myself as a solid player. Steve and I are close and he has helped me a lot. There are so many good players out here, to win by a big margin, you have to be doing a lot of things well. I want to be a consistent player, not a guy who wins a tournament then misses a cut. I think I am getting to that point.
Sal Spallone of Vero Beach, Calif., equalled the course record 63, vaulting from 47th spot all the way to 7th. Rookie Josh Habig also threw a temporary scare into the leaders with a 6-under 28 on his front side, but couldnt sustain the record pace, eventually posting a 69.
The Canadian Tour will now take a week off before beginning a four-week run through Western Canada, commencing with the MTS Classic in Winnipeg the week of July 8th.

Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Northern Ontario Open
  • Full coverage of the Northern Ontario Open