It was almost as if one of Connecticutís own was hoisting the winnerís trophy at this yearís Buick Championship held at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell.
Thatís because ďFax,Ē otherwise known as Brad Faxon of Rhode Island and a fixture at the stateís PGA Tour stop, was the guy holding the trophy and flashing a huge smile.
The 44-year-old Faxon, one of the more approachable and friendly players on Tour, captured his eighth career title and won $774,000 in dramatic fashion, sticking a seven-iron from a fairway bunker on number 18 to within three feet and rolling the resulting birdie putt in to beat Tjaart van der Walt in a sudden victory playoff. Both men finished regulation 14-under-par after Faxon fashioned a remarkable 61 on the final day.
For Faxon, the win was sweet, having battled inconsistency early in the year while playing with an injured knee, one that required surgery in the middle of September.
ďI consider the Deusche Bank in Boston my home tournament because itís only 30 minutes away. But Iíve always thought Hartford was a home tournament as well. Itís only an hour and half away and the fans treat me as one of theirs. Iíve been going there for over 20 years. That final round and the playoff, I felt like the local guy and it was almost like being at Fenway Park.Ē
Faxon, who was recuperating at home in Rhode Island after his surgery, plans to be on the Tour full swing to start 2006. He called his seven-iron on 18 one of his best shots ever.
ďItís funny because I didnít have the best lie and I didnít hit it pure, but it stopped three feet from the hole. Given the circumstances, having finished a half hour before everybody else and going against a guy who was coming off two birdies, and the setting and fans it was maybe my greatest shot in competition.Ē
He also called his final round 61 a truly memorable score.
ďI had a 65 in the final round of the 1995 PGA Championship with a lot of pressure on me, and Iíve played some other good rounds. But thatís the lowest round I have ever shot on the last day and it could have been even better.Ē
Ironically, Faxon almost wasnít playing on Sunday, or Saturday for that matter. He made the cut on the line, but then went out and shot a 65 on Saturday to put himself within hailing distance of the leaders.
ďI was thinking after I finished Friday that I was going to be going home and I didnít want to do that because I wanted to be playing competitive golf going into the Deusche Bank, which was the next week. I shot a 65 on Saturday and started thinking about Sunday. I had two birdies in the first four holes and then strung together a bunch in the middle of the round and got the lead.Ē
Faxon admitted to having second thoughts about surgery, which was scheduled a week and half after Hartford, after the checks he cashed at the Buick and a week later in Boston (where he finished tied for 15th). The money earned in those two events put him at $1.7 million for the year, among the top 30 on the money list and in line for a spot in the year-end Tour Championship
ďIt did make me second guess the decision to have surgery, but that could have kept going on forever. I wanted to be able to do things without pain, like playing pickup basketball or skiing with my kids. Iíd been dealing with it for almost two years. I figured it would be better now when I have time to recuperate so Iíll be ready for the beginning of next year.Ē