A-Mize-ing final round

It had been 16 years, 10 months and 26 days since Larry Mize last lifted an official tournament trophy and the winner of the inaugural US$1.8 million Montreal Championship called Sunday’s victory a relief.

Larry Mize holds up the trophy at Fontainebleau golf course in Blainville

Larry Mize holds up the trophy at Fontainebleau golf course in Blainville

BLAINVILLE, Que. — It had been 16 years, 10 months and 26 days since Larry Mize last lifted an official tournament trophy and the winner of the inaugural US$1.8 million Montreal Championship called Sunday’s victory a relief.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Mize, after his 8-under 64 gave him a one-stroke victory over John Cook. “I knew it would take a 64 or 65 because the course was in great shape and there was Cook and (Fred) Couples and a lot of good people behind me.

“Any time I had a complacent thought I told myself ’keep making birdies.”’

The 51-year-old last won in 1993 at the Buick Open on the PGA Tour, although he is best known for chipping in from 140 feet to take the 1987 Masters in a playoff over Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.

Mize finished the 54-hole Champions Tour event at 17-under 199 to take the $270,000 first prize cheque before an estimated crowd of 22,000 at the Fontainebleau Golf Club.

Cook, the leader going into the final round, shot 68 to finish at 200 and win $158,000. Dan Forsman fired a 65 and Corey Pavin shot 67 to finish tied for third at 14 under. Couples, Bob Gilder, Jay Haas, Loren Roberts and D.A. Weibring tied for fifth at 13 under.

Victoria’s Jim Rutledge was the top Canadian, shooting 70 to finish tied for 38th at 6 under. Yvan Beauchemin of Trois-Rivieres, Que., wound up tied for 55th at 3 under, Daniel Talbot of St-Basile, Que., tied for 63rd at 1 under and Dave Barr of Kelowna, B.C., in 74th at 4 over.

There were rave reviews from players over the three days of play and the crowds, which totalled 54,000. Both Cook and Mize compared it to the throngs at PGA Tour events, which bodes well for the future of the tournament which is contracted to run for at least two more years.

“It’s more than we normally have,” said Mize. “It was great and they were very appreciative of good shots.”

There were plenty of those, especially from Mize, who tied for the best round of the day with Bobby Clampett, who finished well back at 208.

Mize started with birdies on the first two holes and ended up with seven birdies, an eagle on the par-5 10th and one bogey. A run of three straight birdies on the 14th, 15th and 16th sealed the victory.

Mize said it’s difficult to stay positive after failing to win in nearly 17 years.

“You have doubt and you have to replace the doubt with belief in your ability,” he said.

“I just said ‘Continue to believe in yourself, you’ve put in the work and trust it.’ Doubts are no fun.”

Cook didn’t get his first birdie until the seventh, but then put on a late charge that stalled on the par-3 17th when he missed a five-foot putt that would have tied Mize and perhaps forced a playoff. He left a 25-footer on the 18th just wide to the right.

”Finishing second is not much fun,” said Cook, a four-time winner on the senior circuit who is seeking his first victory this year. “I’ve won my share, but some are harder to take than others.

“I didn’t make any bogeys, but I left a lot out there. I missed three or four putts and that was the championship.”