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Originally published Monday, August 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Tom Kite rallies, relishes that winning feeling at Boeing Classic

A disturbing thought had started to creep into Tom Kite's mind that he might never win another golf tournament. His last win was the Boeing...

Seattle Times staff reporter

SNOQUALMIE — A disturbing thought had started to creep into Tom Kite's mind that he might never win another golf tournament.

His last win was the Boeing Classic in 2006 but that was 56 tournaments ago. He suffered putting woes in 2007, and hitting woes, bad luck and inconsistent play in 2008, losing in his only playoff this year.

On Sunday, he exorcised all his golf demons with a final-round 66 for a come-from-behind victory in the Boeing Classic at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge. This time, he didn't need a playoff and the booty included an aviator jacket.

Kite, 58, surged past Scott Simpson, 52, on the back nine to win the Classic by two strokes with a 14-under 202 total for three rounds to win the $255,000 first-place check.

"After two years, you kind of start to wonder, 'Am I going to win one?' Obviously, this feels real good," Kite said. "Two years is a long time to go without a win."

Kite, the only golfer to shoot in the 60s all three days, has won this tournament twice in its four-year history and finished second once.

Just like 2006, this was a comeback triumph for Kite and the guy he passed on the back nine once again was Scott Simpson, who again blew a two-stroke lead after making the turn.

In 2006, Simpson had shot a second-round 61 then faltered on the final nine on Sunday and missed the playoff that Kite won over Keith Fergus.

This Sunday, Simpson held a three-shot lead through seven holes (he led Kite by four shots) but then he bogeyed the par-5 eighth for his first bogey of the tournament. It was the start of his slide that saw him have to scramble just to make pars and he finished with a 1-under 71 and a 204 total.

After the turn it was Kite, however, who was in danger first. He was on the threshold of making double bogey on the par-4 11th hole but saved bogey with a 9-foot putt.

"The bogey putt on No. 11 probably won the golf tournament," he said.

Kite pulled into a tie with a birdie on the par-4 No. 14 "Canyon hole." Simpson's tee shot went in a bunker 70 yards from the pin and he two-putted from 44 feet for par.

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Kite took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 15th hole and expanded the lead to two strokes on No. 16 when Simpson three-putted from 35 feet, missing a 2-footer.

On the par-3 17th hole with a pin near water, Kite hit to 7 ½ feet to put a possible big number out of play. He missed his birdie putt but the biggest danger on the route home was behind him.

Both golfers birdied the par-5 18th hole, with Kite coming smoothly out of a greenside bunker and sinking an 11-foot putt.

Simpson said, "This is disappointing. ... My back nine was a little off."

Playing two groups ahead of Simpson and Kite, John Cook shot his way into contention with a front-nine 32 to get to 10 under but finished at 11 under and in third place at 205.

Cook told a reporter he made "tactical errors" on three holes and failed to take advantage of the opportunities to make a big move on the final nine.

Making a charge from the middle of the pack was defending champion Denis Watson, who shot a 6-under 66 and finished tied for fifth at 207. Watson's round included holing a wedge from 65 yards for an eagle on the first hole.

Tee times were moved up two hours because of the threat of rain, which was only heavy for about 20 minutes before letting up. The threat of rain was blamed for the crowd, officially estimated at 16,000, being down from last year's Sunday crowd of 27,000. Total estimated attendance for the week was 48,500, down from last year's 60,000.

Dan Forsman, who started the day 1-over, shot an 8-under 64 for the lowest score of the tournament. The best nine was Massy Kuramoto's 30 on the back nine Sunday. He finished with a 67.

At day's end, no one was higher than Kite when it came to feeling good about the Boeing Classic.

"I fell in love with the tournament and the atmosphere the first year," he said.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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