Twenty-Years Ago Robert Allenby Wins Six-Man L.A. Playoff To Make It 7-0 In Playoffs

Twenty-years ago this week, Aussie Robert Allenby carved-out a slice of golfing history.

Not only did the then 28-year old Allenby win a record-setting PGA Tour 72-hole, six-man playoff to become the first Australian to win the then Nissan Open at the Riveira Club in suburbn L.A. but Allenby made it then seven playoff’s and seven victories worldwide.

And in his bigger 22-tournament winning career from a first in 1991 to his last in 2009, Allenby won 10 of those events by virtue of a playoff with the first in 1994 at the Honda Open on the European Tour and his 10th playoff victory beating visiting American Bubba Watson in 2005 at the Australian Masters in his home city of Melbourne.

Robert Allenby victorious after the largest number of players, teeing-up in a 72-hole PGA Tour evvent, to be in a play-off. The were – ayers he beat.  Well, they were five Americans – Bob Tway, Dennis Paulson, Jeff Sluman, Brandel Chamblee and Japan’s Toshimitsu Izawa.

Three of Allenby’s four wins on the PGA Tour were over extra holes along with the same number on the European Tour, one on the Sunshine Tour and also three on the Australasian Tour.

All up, Allenby competed in 13 playoffs to enjoy an impressive 10-3 record.

But this week’s Genesis Invitational is a special anniversary as it marks 20-years (February 22nd, 2001) Allenby emerged from persistent rain on the Santa Monica course winning with a birdie at the first extra hole after landing his ‘greatest 3-wood shot of my life’ approach shot to just five-feet.

It would be a good question as to who were the six players he beat.  Well, they were five Americans – Brandel Chamblee, Dennis Paulson, Jeff Sluman and Bob Tway and Japan’s Toshimitsu Izawa.

The six in the play-off had finished at 8-under 276, some of them at least an hour before Davis Love III stumbled badly, and Allenby and Jeff Sluman each bogeyed the 18th to fall back into a share of the lead.

The playoff was the largest since six players went extra holes in the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic, but that tournament was only 36 holes due to rain.

Robert Allenby finishes on top after a six-man play-off to capture the 2001 Nissan Open.

Not even Allenby expected a birdie, not on a 451-yard hole that was playing longer because of the rain that soaked Riviera. The average score was 4.544 in the final round, and only Doug Barron had made birdie.

Until Allenby hit the perfect shot at the perfect moment.

Caught between a 2-iron and a 3-wood from about 225 yards, Allenby choked-up on his fairway metal. Water splashed on contact, the ball tracking right at the flag and landing just over a hump on the green.

“That shot was probably the greatest 3-wood I ever hit in my life,” said Allenby in speaking recently with the PGATour.com

“It is the greatest. And I still have the club. It’s up in my house and I have the original grip on it and everything, it’s such a little beauty.

“I remember Fred Couples and myself seemed to be the last two to have it in play before we finally gave it up. Every tournament we would go to we would both find each other on the range and check to see if the other still had it in play.

“Then finally one tournament he came along and he saw that I had switched it out and I was like, ‘Oh man it’s just too small, I just switched it out.’ Then he starts laughing and says, ‘I did the same thing.’ So we both hung on for ages but had to let it go. It was a dinosaur by then.”

PGA winning Tway was the only other player to reach the 18th green in the playoff, but his 35-footer stopped a foot short.

Toshimitsu was striving to become the first Japanese player to win a PGA Tour event on the US mainland.

Allenby won a then whopping $612,000 first prize cheque and a year after he defeated Craig Stadler on the fourth playoff hole at the Shell Houston Open, and Allenby won a second Tour title in 2000 in defeating Nick Price on the first playoff hole to capture the Western Open.

Looking back 20-years ago Allenby remarked: “The win is right up there but here’s what’s funny: I hit that shot and then later in the year Tiger Woods had the ‘Better Than Most’ putt at TPC Sawgrass on the 17th green in the Players Championship and that ended up being voted the shot of the year.

“But I remember Tim Finchem (Then PGA Tour Commissioner) saying to me that he thought my shot in L.A. was the best shot of the year. He also remembered that at TPC that same year, he saw me make a putt from off the wood of the walkway on the 17th green that was about an hour ahead of Tiger and from farther away. But hey, Tiger Woods got all the accolades because at the end of the day, he’s Tiger Woods.

“I came back (to Riviera) the next year as defending champion and my picture is on the wall behind the staff at registration with me holding the trophy. I walk in and sat down and the three ladies looked at me and asked, “OK, who are you?” I said, “I’m the guy behind you on the wall”. They all turned around and looked and were like, ‘Oh no. Sorry. I remember having a good giggle about that.”

 



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