Phillip Price of Wales produced the outstanding performance of his career by claiming a share of second place behind the world's best golfer, Tiger Woods, in the WGC-NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio.
As darkness descended over Akron following a three hour storm delay, Woods successfully defended his title with a 21 under par total of 259 while Price shot a 69 to tie Justin Leonard for second on 270, ten under par.
The 33 year old from Newport earned $437,500 – the biggest pay day of his ten years on the European Tour – with four rounds in the sixties. However his superb scores of 66,69,66,69 left him a long way behind the staggeringly-consistent Woods.
Just a week after his gruelling victory in the US PGA Championship, the World No.1 raised his season’s earnings on the US PGA Tour to $7,692,821 while the victory was his eighth in 2000. In doing so he became the first player since Johnny Miller in 1975 to successfully defend three titles in one season.
The records continue to tumble whenever Woods is in the field. On his fourth anniversary as a professional, he took his accumulated earnings to just over $19 million. His second round 61 equalled the Firestone record of José Maria Olazábal; his combined first two rounds of 125 set a new US PGA Tour mark and his 21 under par total established a tournament best for the WGC-NEC Invitational.
However for a long time it appeared that Price might finish second on his own after picking up four strokes over the first 12 holes. A three hour storm delay meant that the Welshman finished in near total darkness and he dropped three shots over the closing four holes to finished tied with Leonard.
Price, though, took solace from the thought that only Woods completed the event ahead of him – a magnificent achievement for a play competing in the United States for the first time.
He said: “I played lovely for 14 holes but I’m ranked 75th in the world so this is a big arena for me and I was a little anxious. It’s a big deal for me to come over here and the experience I gained today was invaluable. Hopefully I’ll be able to deal with it a little better next time In encounter this situation.
“Overall I’m pleased. Hopefully this has elevated me a lot. When you are here with 36 of the best players in the world – and you don’t think you are from the top end – then to finish second means an awful lot.”
Price revealed that he had no intention of opting to return and finish on Monday. Playing with Phil Mickelson in the penultimate group, he has offered the chance to stop on the 17th but elected to continue, as did Woods and his partner, Hal Sutton. Woods, in fact, finished with a typical flourish, hitting an eight iron in pitch darkness to one foot for his fourth birdie of the day.
Colin Montgomerie enjoyed a satisfactory weekend with rounds of 66 and 67 to share eighth place with Paul Azinger on a seven under par total of 273. There were also top ten finishes for two more of the European contingent. Olazábal shot a superb closing 65 for 274, six under, while Thomas Björn ended another good week with a 66 to match the Spaniard’s total. Darren Clarke, Andrew Coltart and Lee Westwood also finished inside the top 20.
Montgomerie paid Price a handsome tribute by saying: “Phillip Price has been tremendous. He’s been in exalted company and performed superbly. He’s not one of the leading lights on the European Tour but he’s proved himself to be a very capable player who deserves to be here.”
Woods, who has now won three of the first five World Golf Championships, admitted: “Overall it was a wonderful week. I played well. I felt like if I shot even par for the day then Hal would have to shoot 61 to force a play-off.”