Arron Oberholser figured it would be tough to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am because he had never won before on the PGA Tour, and even after putting five shots between him and Mike Weir after three holes, Oberholser spent the rest of the day battling his nerves and his swing.
He knew he would need some good breaks, and none was bigger than a tee shot on the 15th hole that bounced twice off the cart path and was headed for trouble until it caromed back off a tree and into a clearing, setting up an unlikely birdie that sealed the victory yesterday.
And then came the proud, peaceful stroll down the 18th fairway.
''I always watched guys growing up win the golf tournament, and the walk up 18 at Pebble Beach is unlike anything else," he said after closing with an even-par 72 for a five-shot victory. ''Even when you're playing here by yourself, or with a foursome, it's still an incredible walk. But knowing that you're the champion . . . I wish everybody could feel that way."
But he required some help -- first from Weir, then a tree.
Weir, tied for the lead with Oberholser at the start of the day, was five shots behind after three holes. He went out of bounds at the par-5 second to make double bogey, then hit over the green at No. 3 to drop another shot.
Oberholser built his lead to six shots with six holes, then began to limp home.
He took bogey from the fairway bunker on the 13th, and made another bogey on the par-5 14th when he hit under a tree and had to punch out into the fairway. Then came the tee shot on the 15th, even farther to the right.
''Hits the path not once, but twice," he said. ''Then I see it fly into this tree and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, what are you doing?' " Oberholser said. ''I get up there and was like, 'Wow.' "
Only when he reached his ball did he realize it popped out of the tree and gave him a clear shot at the green with a sand wedge.
Weir stumbled to a 78.
Oberholser finished at 17-under 271, five shots ahead of Rory Sabbatini (72). Weir and Jonathan Byrd (69) were another stroke behind.
European/Australasian -- Kevin Stadler won the Johnnie Walker Classic for his biggest professional victory, closing with an eagle on the final hole for a 3-under-par 69 and a two-stroke victory over Nick O'Hern (68) in Perth, Australia.
Stadler, the 26-year-old son of 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler, had a 20-under 268 total. He earned $365,340. The former Southern California star finished 168th on the PGA Tour money list last year and lost his Tour card.