When Dave Stockton was invited into the interview room Monday prior to the Sorenson Champions Challenge pro-am, all of the questions directed toward him concerned the fall Ryder Cup matches for which Stockton will be an assistant captain on the U.S. team. Nobody dreamed the 68-year-old would have a chance to win the actual tournament a day later at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club.
Yet there he was Tuesday afternoon sharing the giant $100,000 first prize check along with his son, Dave Jr., after the two-man scramble event, before hustling off to catch a plane to Boston for a Champions Tour event.
The Stocktons fired a 15-under-par 55 and then edged Johnny Miller and his son, Scott, on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, when the younger Stockton sank a 6-foot birdie putt. It marked the elder Stockton's fourth victory in Utah, along with his two Champions Tour victories in 1993 and 1997 and a Champions Challenge win with his son in 2000.
"This was really a hoot," said Dave Sr. "Utah's been great to me. It's always fun to come back. We've had a good track record here."
"This is a special place for us," added 39-year-old Dave Jr. "It was fun to play and spend time with my dad. We just had one of those days where everything clicked. We won't forget it."
The Stocktons were one of the first groups to finish Tuesday and following their 55, they were invited to the press room. At one point when the elder Stockton was asked about another victory in Utah, his son quickly said, "not yet."
And he was right.
Just about that time, the Millers were making an eagle at the par-5 14th on a 50-foot putt by Scott to move to 13-under par on the day. That meant they only had to birdie three of the final four holes to win.
However, they had to work to par No. 15 and both Millers missed from 15 feet at the par-3 16th. At No. 17, Johnny hit within 6 feet and drained the putt, giving them a chance to tie at 18.
At the shortened 167-yard par-3 18th, Scott hit his tee shot within 10 feet and sank the putt after Johnny missed, setting up the playoff.
"We hadn't even hit a ball in an hour and I run back there and they're already teeing off," said Stockton Jr. "I could feel my heart pounding and I hadn't felt that since I played on tour and that was awhile ago."
After the Miller's best shot finished 15 feet away, Dave Stockton put his approach shot seven feet away. Then Dave Jr. stuck his 7-iron a foot closer.
"I hit a good shot in there just the way I wanted," said Dave Jr. "(His shot) freed me up and it was probably the best iron shot I hit all day."
Both of the Miller's putts slid by the high side of the hole. After dad missed, Dave Jr. rolled in the putt for the victory.
"Junior" as his dad calls him, sells real estate and plays "customer golf" for a living after playing the PGA and Nationwide Tours for more than a decade. He calls the Champions Challenge "my major" and says this is the only tournament he plays these days.
For Johnny Miller it was a bit surprising that he and his son made it to a playoff. Miller had to miss Monday's pro-am because of the U.S. Open playoff he worked for NBC and like Tiger Woods, he was coming off knee surgery.
"I hit some good shots and Scott just played great," Miller said. "We ham-and-egged it real well and he made a lot of putts. I didn't even expect to be in a playoff. But they deserved it. Those shots they hit on the last hole were better than even Tiger and Rocco (Mediate)."Andy and Todd Miller, two more of Johnny's sons, finished third with a 57, while three teams, Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam, Billy and Bobby Casper, and Dean Wilson and Charley Hoffman tied for fourth at 59.
Sorenson Champions Challenge scores
55 *Dave Stockton-Dave Stockton Jr., $100,000
55 Johnny Miller-Scott Miller $75,000
57 Andy Miller-Todd Miller , $50,000
59 Billy Casper-Bobby Casper $36,667
59 Annika Sorenstam-Charlotta Sorenstam $36,667
59 Dean Wilson-Charley Hoffman, $36,667
60 Jack Nicklaus II-Ian Baker Finch, $25,000
61 Mike Reid-Daniel Reid, $25,000
61 Hale Irwin-Steve Irwin $25,000
61 Jason Zuback-Bobby Wilson, $25,000
62 Jack Nicklaus-Mike Nicklaus $25,000
65 Craig Stadler-Chris Stadler, $25,000