Scott Verplank finally won the tournament he's always wanted to win. This victory at home was for the late Byron Nelson.
Verplank, who as a teenager growing up in Dallas got to play several rounds with Nelson, used three straight birdies and Luke Donald's lead-blowing double bogey yesterday to take the lead and then win the first EDS Byron Nelson Championship played without its namesake.
After holing a final 2-foot par putt at No. 18 for a one-stroke victory, Verplank dropped into a squatting position and looked skyward with smile on his face. He pumped his left fist triumphantly into the air.
"Byron meant so much to me," Verplank said. "To be from Dallas and win this is unbelievable."
Sadly missing for Verplank was a personal congratulation from Nelson, who died Sept. 26 at age 94. But Nelson's wife, Peggy, was there at the tournament in Irving, clutching one of his famed fedoras in her hand when she hugged Verplank.
"Byron would be very, very happy for Scott. I am, too," Peggy Nelson said. "The friendship they had, it's great to see it culminate this way."
In 1968, Nelson became the first golfer to have a PGA Tour event named after him, and he would always greet players finishing their rounds at the 18th green before taking part in the trophy presentation.
Verplank closed with a 4-under-66 for a 13-under 267 total, a stroke ahead of Donald (68) for his fifth PGA Tour victory, his first since the 2001 Canadian Open. Phil Mickelson (65), Jerry Kelly (64), Rory Sabbatini (64) and Ian Poulter (66) tied for third at 10 under.
Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Verplank hit his tee shot at the 196-yard 17th hole into a bunker far away on the side opposite the hole. But he saved par - and the long-desired championship - after blasting to less than 2 feet.
Verplank and Donald both had pars at No. 18 after both slid similar 10-foot birdie attempts past the hole.
This victory was much more valuable to Verplank than the $1.134 million check and a custom-made motorcycle built by Orange County Choppers.
Verplank, 42, considers the event his fifth major because of the man for whom it's named - the legendary golfer who used to write him encouraging notes. Verplank once was a standard bearer at the tournament, where his mother was a volunteer.
After Saturday's round of 66 got him within one stroke of Donald for the lead, Verplank said winning would be the highlight of his career.
Donald led by three strokes after his 12-foot putt at the 438-yard sixth hole for his third birdie in a four-hole stretch yesterday. But that was the same hole that Verplank began his birdie run with a 5-footer. Verplank was within a stroke at 12 under after chipping to 2 feet for birdie at the 533-yard seventh hole and making a 12-footer at No. 8.
Donald's drive at the 439-yard ninth hole went into the trees on the left, and his approach shot wound up in the rough to the right of the green. He hit his next shot over the green and left his chip 12 feet short before his bogey putt skidded past the hole.
Even though Verplank's 8-foot birdie attempt slid past the hole, he was in the lead.
The closest Verplank had come to winning the Nelson before was in 2001 when he lost a four-hole playoff with Robert Damron. That was the first of three top-10 finishes in the last six tournaments, though shoulder problems forced him to withdraw from last year's tournament - the final one attended by Nelson.
In other tournaments:
* At Morella, Mexico, Italy's Silvia Cavalleri won the Corona Morelia Championship for her first LPGA title, closing with a 7-under 66 for a two-stroke victory over Mexican star Lorena Ochoa and Paraguay's Julieta Granada. Cavalleri finished at 20-under 272 and earned $195,000.