26 Jun 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |
Great Australian Moments 18: Paz the Doral dazzler
by Martin Blake
Sometimes the best weeks begin in unfortunate circumstances.
Craig Parry’s win of the Ford Championship at Doral resort in Florida in 2004 came with the most exhilarating of finishes – a six-iron shot holed out for an eagle two at the first playoff hole against Scott Verplank of the United States, the greatest single moment of a fine career.
But Parry almost missed the tournament, his first of the 2004 PGA Tour season, having slept through his alarm on the Thursday. His brother and caddie, Glenn, ultimately woke him at 7.40am and somehow, he made his 7.54am tee time in the first round, shot 71, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Parry is one of Australian’s best-ever players, a winner of an Australian Open (2007), three Australian Masters, a World Golf Championship event in America (2002) and a member of the only winning International team in a Presidents Cup (1998). He also had strong finishes at the Open Championship (eighth in 1991 and fourth in 1999), the US Open (third in 1993) and the Masters (13th in 1992, when he led into the final round).
But it is safe to say that March 7, 2004 was his high point. If Gene Sarazen hit ‘the shot heard around the world’ at Augusta National in the 1930s, then Parry’s walk-off six-iron for eagle from 160 metres at the par-four 18th hole at Doral’s famous Blue Monster course sent a tremor around the planet too.
He and Verplank had duelled throughout the final day, with Parry, who’d led into the final round, shooting 68 to Verplank’s 67. At the 72nd hole, the Australian had a 20-footer for birdie to win outright, but a safe par sent him back down the 18th with Verplank in a playoff, both at 17-under par overall.
The 18th at Doral is one of the toughest holes on the course, with water on the left of the green adding to the test.
In the playoff, Parry found the fairway but Verplank missed it right, and could only find the edge of the green with his approach. Enter the thick-set figure of Parry, who hit a perfect iron shot that bounced five metres short of the flag and hopped in to end the playoff right then and there.
“I knew I hit a good shot,’’ said Parry. “I knew it was going to be close. It was just a matter of how close.’’
With the ball in the air, Glenn Parry was optimistic. “I can feel a Shaun Micheel moment coming,’’ he uttered to himself, channelling the unsung Micheel’s famous seven iron to win the 2003 PGA Championship.
But it was better than Micheel’s shot, which stopped a few centimetres from the hole. “Championship OVER,’’ was a memorable piece of television commentary for the moment.
Talking to reporters afterward, Parry joked that he had pulled the shot farther left than he wanted. “I wasn’t aiming at the flag, I can assure you,’’ he said. “I was aiming a couple of yards right.”
He picked up $US900,000 in prizemoney. Just as importantly, it secured his playing rights after he had found a lull in his career. Ultimately, Parry played in America until the end of 2006, came home to Sydney to his inner-western waterfront property, and sailed his boat with his family.
He won’t forget that day in a hurry.
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