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Sunday, July 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By John Boyle
SAMMAMISH If there's such a thing as an 18-hole victory lap, Ryan Moore took it yesterday.
The 21-year-old Puyallup native vanquished all hopes for suspense as he rolled to a final-round 5-under-par 67 to win the 11th Sahalee Players Championship at Sahalee Country Club over a strong field of college players and top amateurs from Australia and Canada.
Moore, who won last month's NCAA title as a junior at UNLV, finished yesterday with a four-round score of 16-under 272, five strokes ahead of second-place finisher James Nitties from New South Wales, Australia.
Moore's score easily established a new Sahalee Players Championship scoring record, breaking the mark of 9-under set by Arron Oberholser in 1997 when the event was three rounds. Moore was 11-under through three rounds.
The four-day total was made more impressive by the fact that Moore had not played competitive golf since winning the NCAA tournament June 1-4. Following the win at Homestead in Virginia, Moore underwent surgery to remove a tailbone cyst.
"I didn't have super-high expectations, knowing that I took a little layoff and that I could be a little rusty," said Moore, who will start play tomorrow at the U.S. Public Links Championship, a tournament he won in 2002. "I wasn't worried about breaking records, or shooting 65, or 67, 68. I was just out there hitting every shot for what it's worth. It's nice to be back where I was a month ago and hitting the ball well."
Nitties, a member of the Australian national team, matched Moore with a final-round 67, but never made a substantial dent in Moore's lead.
"I threw everything at him today and still couldn't get a shot on him," said Nitties, who birdied three of the first four holes while gaining only a stroke on the leader. "The whole day I was just sort of playing for second place, because Ryan was playing so well. I made three birdies early, and he made two, so I wasn't really catching up with him."
With a four-stroke lead and four holes to play, Moore looked like he just might open a window of opportunity for Nitties.
Nitties was on the par-4 15th green with a long birdie putt. Moore, meanwhile, left himself 10 feet for par after hitting out of the bunker.
If Nitties could somehow make his putt and Moore were to two-putt, the lead would shrink to two strokes, putting pressure on Moore for the first time all day.
Instead, Nitties just missed his birdie putt, running it 6 feet past the hole, and Moore saved par. Nitties then missed his par putt, dropping to five strokes back with three holes remaining.
Window shut, tournament over.
"I thought that maybe if I holed that putt, maybe it could have given me a two-shot swing going into the last few holes," said Nitties, the 2003 New Zealand Amateur champion.
Moore was the second UNLV golfer to win the Sahalee Players Championship in as many years. Brien Davis of Portland won last year's tournament after graduating from UNLV.
Sahalee Players Championship
(Played at the 6,819 yard, par 72, Sahalee Country Club)
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