Captain Kirk ousts 'Spaceman'

After 266 starts on the PGA Tour, Triplett wins the Nissan Open

Mon, 21 Feb 2000

Captain Kirk ousts 'Spaceman'

Kirk Triplett finally threw the monkey off his back by winning the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club in a dramatic climax from Sweden's Jesper Parnevik.

After 11 years and 266 starts on the US Tour, Triplett, father of twins, needed a working par four at the last hole to defeat the Pink-trousered Parnevik at the last hole. Triplett battled through the heavy rainfall and built a three-stroke lead on the back nine and then fought the demons of being the ubiquitous bridesmaid that has plagued him since 1989 when he joined the tour and secured his first win earning $558,000.

Parnevik, nicknamed on the European Tour as the 'Spaceman' because of his passion for eating Volcanic dust and studying thermonuclear Physics as a hobby, made it as difficult as possible for Triplett by slam dunking a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole, forcing Triplett make a four foot downhill left to right putt for par and snatch the tournament from the Swede.

"It's an incredible feeling," he said. "This has been a long time coming." Triplett finished at 12-under 272 and Parnevik, wearing bright Pink trousers could have been seen clear as a ball from the Goodyear airship, birdied two of the last three holes for a 68 that left him alone in second.

Robin Freeman provided the stiffest challenge to Triplett until a three-putt bogey on the 17th, was another stroke back after a closing 68.

A week after the end of "The Streak", Tiger Woods missed out on a top-10 finish in a stroke-play tournament for the first time since he tied for 18th in the MCI Classic in April 1999, 13 events ago.

Woods got within two shots of the lead at one point early in the round, but shot 72 and finished in a tie for 19th. It was only the fifth time in his last 36 rounds on tour that he failed to break par, dating back to Carnoustie.

"It's just a bad round," Woods said. "I didn't really have it going this entire week. If I putted a little better, I would have been right there. But you can't have everything." Triplett wasn't asking for everything, he just wanted one victory to show for 11 years of grinding.

He travelled the world trying to prove to himself he could compete with the best. He toiled for three years in Australia, Asia and Canada before finally earning his card in 1989.

With a two-stroke lead going to the 18th, Triplett drove into the left rough on the 451-yard closing hole and had to lay back 40 yards short with his second shot, hoping for a pitch and a putt par. Parnevik, seeing his playing partner about to crumble applied pressure putting his 6-iron approach 25 feet below the hole. With a frightened look on his face, Triplett answered the challenge with pitch to four feet, and when Parnevik slotted his birdie putt home, the hole seemed to have shrunk to the size of an eggcup.

"I was hoping he would make the putt," Parnevik said. "But in the back of my head I'm shouting, 'No, you want to be in a playoff.' Anyone who knows him, he's just a nice guy. This must be a huge relief. I'm very happy for him."

The victory comes one week too late for Triplett, who was No. 66 in the world ranking and just missed getting in the World Golf Championships -- Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship that starts Wednesday at La Costa.