If either player's resolve was going to crack, this was the time. At the par-5 17th, Azinger winced as his birdie putt glided past the hole. Twirling his putter in frustration, he somewhat heedlessly tapped in the foot-and-a-half putt for par. a putt that was no shorter than the one he had missed in the final round of last year's Disney Classic, and that had cost him the tournament. This time the ball dropped.
The two men went to the 18th tee still tied, and that's where impatience decided the tournament. Rushing a little—"probably because I felt so confident and relaxed"—Baker-Finch pulled his drive into a fairway bunker. Unable to clear the lip of the trap with the five-iron he needed to reach the green, he wisely laid up short with an eight-iron, hoping to save par with a good pitch. That opened the gate for Azinger, who took about 12 of Stewart's "cleansing breaths" and lingered over his shot from the fairway like a gardener tending a prize begonia. Finally, satisfied, he rifled a five-iron to about 16 feet above the hole. Minutes later, Baker-Finch's long par putt trickled past the cup, and Azinger took two deliberate putts for a 272 total and victory.
"It's so corny," said the tickled Zinger afterward. "I had to prove to myself that I could play without getting ahead of myself, and today I was able to do that."
Not to be outdone in this patienter-than-thou business, the gracious Baker-Finch praised Azinger lavishly, declared himself more than satisfied with his own play and then left to catch a transpacific flight, saying, "I can go back to Australia now and play with the confidence that I can win there."
Clever fellow, that Baker-Finch. He knows how to keep his start-of-the-season optimism alive.