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Brad Bryant celebrates after sinking a nearly 13-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to win over R. W. Eaks on the third playoff hole in the final round of the Regions Charity Classic golf tournament.
AP photo by Butch Dill
Brad Bryant celebrates after sinking a nearly 13-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to win over R. W. Eaks on the third playoff hole in the final round of the Regions Charity Classic golf tournament.

Bryant tops Eaks in Regions playoff

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

HOOVER — Brad Bryant staged a final-day comeback, made a key shot on the 17th hole and won at Ross Bridge — much like last year.

Winning his second straight Regions Charity Classic just took a bit longer Sunday, with Bryant sinking a nearly 13-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff to beat R.W. Eaks and become the first player to win the tournament twice.

The 52-year-old Bryant claimed the $240,000 winner’s check with his third Champions Tour victory. He finished at 12-under 204.

“Two of three wins on the same golf course is pretty good,” he said. “I might see if we can get our tour championship here.”

Both Bryant and Eaks parred the hole twice in the playoff after shooting matching 7-under 65s to rally from five-shot deficits. Seeking his first Champions Tour win, Eaks had to settle for another two-putt par from just above the green before Bryant’s winning putt from beside the hole.

Bryant had similar putts to end regulation and on the first playoff hole, the 470-yard, par-4 18th.

“I told my caddie, ‘He’s going to make that,”’ Eaks said. “It was a perfect putt for him, just a little uphill, right to left. He hit a perfect shot up there for him.”

Last year, Bryant closed with a 64, overcoming a three-stroke deficit on the final three holes to beat Mark McNulty. Both times, Bryant made big birdies on the par-4 17th.

This time he hit a shot from the bunker within 8 feet of the hole.

“That wedge shot and that putt on that hole was where I won the golf tournament,” Bryant said. “That’s really where I won the tournament last year with a birdie.”

Bryant and Eaks started the day five strokes behind Bob Gilder, who fell out of contention with a 73.

Eaks sounded anything but dejected even minutes after losing.

“I just made 140-and-something thousand dollars. How can I be upset about that,” said the smiling Eaks, who has finished second four times and lost twice in a playoff. “My time will come sooner or later.”

He has struggled with hip problems since falling into a bunker at Quad Cities while on the PGA Tour in 1998.

Denis Watson and Tom Kite — who eagled the par-5 16th — finished one stroke back at 205, while first-round leader Scott Hoch was two strokes behind. Altogether, nine players were within four shots of the lead and at one point six were tied for first at 10 under.

Seve Ballesteros closed a rough Champions Tour debut with a 73, eight shots better than his second round. That still left him tied with Lee Trevino at the bottom of the 78-player field at 16-over 216.

“My game is not there,” Ballesteros said. “I’m very disappointed with my performance, but I did the best I could.”

Eaks, who will turn 55 on Tuesday, missed a 15-foot birdie putt for the win in regulation on 18 while Bryant watched, sending it to the playoff.

“I really thought I was going to make that putt at the end of regulation,” Eaks said. “I just hit it a little bit too hard.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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