Paul Azinger rolled in an eight-foot putt for par on the 18th hole yesterday to preserve a one-shot triumph in the Greater Hartford Open at Cromwell, Conn., his third tour victory of the year.
The $126,000 top prize returned Azinger to No. 1 on the tour's money list, giving him a $576,462 total -- third-highest amount for a single season in PGA history. U.S. Open winner Scott Simpson, the former earnings leader, has won $465,896, but did not play this week.
Azinger's closing round of 1-over-par 72 gave him a 269 total, edging Dan Forsman and Wayne Levi. Azinger's closing round was the highest by a PGA event winner this year.
Azinger, who held a three-stroke lead entering the final round, had a one-shot advantage going to the par-4 18th hole. He appeared to have the tournament won when his second shot stopped on the back apron, 25 feet from the cup. But, in what he later described as a "good-grief putt," Azinger rolled the downhill putt eight feet past the hole. "I knew it was fast; I didn't think it was that fast," he said.
After looking at the putt "from all sides," Azinger hit the decisive putt inside the left lip and it curled in. He sunk a 25-footer at the final hole two months ago to win the Las Vegas International, the richest event on the tour. He got his first tour victory at the Phoenix Open in January.
Tied for fourth place yesterday, three shots back, were Lee Trevino and Gene Sauers at 272.
Deb Richard shot a final round of par 72 to hold off several challengers and win the $300,000 Rochester (N.Y.) International for her first tour victory. Lori Garbacz, Laurie Rinker, Amy Alcott and Shirley Furlong finished two strokes back.
Richard, who was runner-up for the LPGA's rookie-of-the-year award last year, earned $45,000, finishing with a 72-hole total of 280, 8 under par on the 6,162-yard Locust Hill Country Club course.
Billy Casper shot a 7-under-par 64 and held off a record challenge from Miller Barber to win the $250,000 Greater Grand Rapids (Mich.) Open tournament by three strokes.
Casper, 56, who came into the final round with a two-stroke lead, finished at 13-under-par 200 for the three rounds over the 6,453-yard Elks Country Club course for his second win of the year. Barber, 56, shot a tournament-record 63 to finish at 203.