ACC champ Chandlerdisplays green thumb |

ACC champ Chandlerdisplays green thumb

Paul Andrew

STATELINE (AP) – “Drive for show, putt for dough” is a golf cliche that Chris Chandler proved to be accurate, as he won the 18th American Century Championship on Sunday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

It was the first championship for Chandler, a regular in the tournament since 1993.

Chandler put together an incredible string of birdies, making five in six holes to hold off a charge by six-time winner Rick Rhoden. Chandler’s putting was at his best with a series of long putts to distance himself from the field. His lengthy birdie putts included a 25-footer on No. 9, a 20-footer on No. 12 and another 25-footer on No. 14.

“I was begging for putts to go in the first two days,” Chandler said as he accepted the winner’s trophy and check for $125,000. “It all was working today.”

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Going into the final round, Chandler was tied for third place, four points behind Rhoden. Playing in the next-to-last group with good friend Trent Dilfer and last year’s winner, Jack Wagner, Chandler’s game caught fire.

His long and accurate drives put him in easy range to chip close to the pin on many of the holes. Despite the large crowd and pressure of having Rhoden behind him, Chandler seemed to have ice water in his veins as the cruised through the final round.

A monster drive on the par 5-16th hole put him a short chip from the green. His wedge and two-putt game him a score of 77, a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.

“I’m more nervous than he is,” said wife Diane, who with Chandler’s three daughters and cousins, were cheering every shot. “He seems to be so calm.”

With a large crowd, and the typically noisy spectators watching from the boats along the 17th hole, Chandler put his tee shot about 20 feet from the pin, then two-putted to give him 78 points.

An errant second shot off a downhill slope on No. 18 gave Chandler a tough lie in the back bunker. Two shots out and two putts gave him a final total of 78, a overall record tournament score.

There was little drama at the finish as runner-up Rick Rhoden needed a double eagle — a shot he nearly executed on Saturday on No. 4 — to overtake Chandler on 18.

“I think the odds were I was playing for second,” Rhoden said. “I mean, I look at it this way, I’ve never had a double eagle. I really doubt I would have it exactly when I needed it, over water.”

Rhoden did birdie 18 to finish second with 73 points. NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr, who held the lead several times on the front nine, finished third with 70.

At an emotional trophy ceremony, Chandler thanked all those who supported him and volunteered throughout the week. He also acknowledged the victims of the Angora fire, and all the people who have worked to support those who lost their homes in the recent disaster.

Special thanks went out to his father-in-law, former 49er quarterback John Brodie, who suffered a severe stroke several years ago.

“John is getting better and better. It meant everything to have him with me this week,” Chandler said.

“When I would hit a bad shot off the tee, I would hear him laughing,” added Chandler.

As Chandler spoke, Brodie couldn’t control his emotions, weeping uncontrollably.

After the awards, a group of firefighters, the heroes of South Lake Tahoe who risked their lives to save so many homes, were given the opportunity to be photographed and receive some recognition.

For Chandler, it will be a week he won’t forget. For those who suffered loss of homes during the recent fire, the passion and generosity displayed by players and others involved with the tournament, won’t be forgotten either as they begin their road to recovery.

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