Thanks to Observers Spittle Averts Disaster for First Champions Tour Win

Unheralded Rod Spittle was looking at a 4-foot putt on the first sudden-death playoff hole when he began hearing sounds from people around him, including his opponent Jeff Sluman.

The 6-foot-5 Canadian had tied Sluman in regulation in the AT&T Championship at 12-under 201 when they both posted 4-under 67s Sunday at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio.

After Sluman blasted out of a bunker in front of the par-3 18th hole, Spittle moved his marker by the width of his putter head to allow Sluman a clear path to the hole. But in his excitement Spittle had forgotten to shift his ball back to its original spot.

But thanks to warnings from Golf Channel analyst Donna Caponi, Champions Tour head rules official Jim Witherspoon, some fans in the gallery and even Sluman, Spittle moved his ball to the correct spot, avoiding a two-shot penalty. He then sank the winning putt.

"I probably would have hit it," Spittle said afterward. "I was kind of staring it down. But then it sounded like the posse coming to get me."

In the spirit of sportsmanship often only found in golf, Sluman was happy Spittle did not go through with the unthinkable. "It's hard to describe what it is like in that position," said Sluman, 53. "Sometimes you can go brain-dead. Fortunately, it didn't end that way - it would have been awful."

Instead, Spittle got to enjoy his first-ever victory on the Champions Tour, taking home $262,500 for his fine play.