Mike Nicolette came back from the brink of collapse and parred the opening hole of a sudden-death playoff in the Bay Hill Golf Classic, defeating Greg Norman for the first victory of his career today before a partisan crowd.
Norman, winner of 20 tournaments around the world, including the Australian Masters and Hong Kong Open, three-putted for bogey on the first playoff hole.
The victory was worth $63,000 from a purse of $350,000 and more than doubled Nicolette's previous career earnings.
"There were so many people out there, friends, pulling for me so hard, it almost brought tears to my eyes," said Nicolette, who went to school at nearby Rollins College.
Norman and Nicolette, who held a six-shot lead at the start of the final day's play, each finished regulation play at 283, a shot under par on Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill course.
In the playoff, the fourth in 10 tournaments on the PGA Tour this year, Nicolette was short of the green on his approach to the 426-yard 15th hole. Norman, after a long drive, put his second on the green.
Nicolette chipped close, to about 2 1/2 feet. Norman, some 30 feet away from a winning birdie, ran his first putt about six feet beyond the cup.
"I'm a very aggressive player," he said. "Maybe most guys would try to two-putt from there, but I was trying to make it. I wanted to give it a chance."
He missed coming back.
"Pulled it just an inch," he said.
Nicolette, who led the tournament for 69 holes before falling into a tie with a bad-bounce double bogey, shot a final-round 74. Norman, who made up five shots in three holes on the back nine, shot a 68 in the mild, breezy weather. He won $37,800.
Bill Rogers and D.A. Weibring shared third at 286, with closing rounds of 69 and 70, respectively.
Jack Nicklaus, who birdied his first three holes, Hale Irwin, Gil Morgan and Spain's Seve Ballesteros were at 287.