First-year PGA pro Brendan Steele stayed steady enough to make his one-stroke, final-round lead hold up and win the Texas Open.
It wasn’t until it was time to celebrate that the rookie mistakes began.
The 28-year-old Californian cut his finger on the glass-and-stone trophy as he posed with it for pictures. Then he struggled to pull on the boots that came as part of the tournament prize. “Do I get a horse too?” he quipped.
His 1-under 71 in Sunday’s relentless wind moved him to an 8-under 270 for the tournament, one shot better than fellow PGA Tour first-year player Kevin Chappell, and Charley Hoffman.
The leader by a stroke heading into the final round, Steele largely stayed out of trouble throughout the day.
He gave a small fist pump, then thrust his arm downward and smiled broadly to celebrate his first Tour victory after holing out on 18.
The tournament featured the Tour’s highest scoring average, 73.665, this season and Steele’s 280 overall was the highest winning score at the Texas Open since the 1934 edition.
Steele birdied the par-5 second hole, dropping his approach from a bunker to within 10 feet of the pin, then bogeyed the par-4 No. 5, leaving a 12-foot putt from the fringe short. But he put his tee shot within three feet of the hole on par-3 No. 7 to move back to 8 under.
That’s where he finished. Steele, whose previous best was a tie for 17th at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in January, could have then padded his lead, but missed a couple of other makeable birdie putts late.
Instead, he settled for 12 straight pars and it was enough to hold off Chappell, who had two birdies on the front nine, then put his second shot to within seven feet on par-4 No. 10 to grab a share of the lead.
Chappell, stayed tied with Steele through seven holes, but hit his 2nd shot on the par-4 17th well right of the hole and then couldn’t save par.
It was the first time since the 2006 Phoenix Open that two Tour rookies finished 1-2 at a tournament. Another rookie, Charl Schwartzel, won last week at the Masters, making this the first time rookies have won back-to-back on Tour since 2002.
Winds that were a factor all week, pushing drives into the woods and knocking down approach shots, continued to blow strong at 20 mph Sunday—with gusts exceeding 30 mph.
Tying Chappell for second was the 34-year-old Hoffman, who found the hole from the fairway 52 feet away for an eagle on the par-5 No. 8. He followed that with a birdie on 464-yard No. 9—where Kevin Na had the worst par-4 hole in the PGA Tour record books during Thursday’s opening round, shooting a 16.
Hoffman just missed a 10-footer to save par on No. 14, but his birdie on 18 moved him back to 7 under for the tournament.
Brandt Snedeker, 30, had two birdies on the front nine but missed an 8-foot putt on the par-4 11th to slide back to 6 under for the tournament, good enough to finish alone in forth.
Cameron Tringale is in his second year on Tour but is 5 years younger than Steele at 23. He had three bogeys to offset a pair of birdies and finished tied for fifth at five under.
Also tied for fifth was Pat Perez and Fredrik Jacobson, who finished second at the 2010 Texas Open.
Players in their 20s have won three of the last four PGA Tour events and four of the last six. A player in his 30s has not won since Rory Sabbatini at the Honda Classic, a span of seven events.
COOK WINS IN PLAYOFF
John Cook won the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am on Sunday for his second Champions Tour victory of the year, rebounding from a double bogey on the final hole of regulation with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff against Jay Don Blake.
Cook, also the winner of the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric in Hawaii, closed with a 2-over 73 to match Blake at 9-under 204. Blake birdied the final hole for a 70.
Cook hit his 175-yard approach shot into the water on the par-4 18th en route to the double bogey.
In the playoff, Cook hit a 6-iron from 168 yards to about 6 feet to set up his winning birdie.
Blake’s second shot out of a fairway bunker landed in the grenade rough.
Blake is winless since the PGA Tour’s Sheraton Lehman Brothers Open.
The 53-year-old Cook earned $255,000 for his seventh career Champions Tour victory. He opened with rounds of 66 and 65 at TPC Tampa Bay to take a one-stroke lead into the final round.
Joe Ozaki and Russ Cochran tied for third at 7 under.
MANASSERO YOUNGEST WINNER IN MALAYSIAItalian teenager Matteo Manassero shot a 4-under 68 Sunday to earn a one-stroke victory at the Malaysian Open, upstaging Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Rory McIlroy.
Manassero had an eagle on the par-5 10th and added two birdies on the back nine to finish at 16-under 272 two days before his 18th birthday.
Gregory Bourdy was second after a 67 that included eight birdies. The Frenchman charged up the leaderboard with four consecutive birdies beginning at the third hole, but he bogeyed the eighth and had a double bogey on No. 11.
McIlroy had a 69 and was third, two shots back, after a holding the second-round lead as he tried to bounce back from his Masters collapse last Sunday. Schwartzel shot a 70 and finished tied for 11th at 7-under 281.
Martin Kaymer, No. 1 in the world rankings, was eight shots back in a tie for ninth after closing with a 72.
McIlroy had four birdies and a bogey on the first 11 holes, but stumbled with a double bogey on No. 12. However, the Northern Irishman rallied with three more birdies and could have forced a playoff with another birdie on the par-5 18th, but his hopes evaporated when his second shot went too far to the right.
Manassero, who became the European Tour’s youngest winner with his victory at last year’s Castello Masters, said it was “just fantastic” to earn another trophy before turning 18.
Manassero will move up to 35th in the world rankings next week. He received $416,660 for winning and became the Malaysian Open’s youngest winner.
CHOPRA TAKES FOG SHORTENED EVENT
Daniel Chopra won the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express Classic on Sunday when fog forced officials to cancel the final round at TPC Stonebrae.
The 37-year-old Swede, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, shot a career-best 9-under 61 on Saturday to reach 12 under and take a one-stroke lead over Luke List and Russell Knox.
The start of play was delayed four hours Sunday until 1:30 p.m. The fog returned four hours later—the first groups were through 16 holes and the final groups played seven—and the round was canceled because of insufficient time to complete the round Sunday. The tour said it didn’t have the option to resume play Monday.
Chopra stumbled with a bogey at No. 2 and eventually relinquished the lead to Knox, a Monday qualifier making only his fourth career start on the tour. Knox took the lead with as birdie at the par-3 sixth hole. Playing with Knox and List, Chopra birdied No. 7 to regain a share of the lead before play was stopped.
Knox, from Scotland, had a chance to tie for the lead Saturday, but missed a 4-foot birdie putt on his final hole. That turned out to be the difference between a chance at a playoff and a share of second place.
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, Mathew Goggin, Doug LaBelle and Marco Dawson tied for fourth at 8 under.
IN OTHER NEWS
Jim Thorpe, the 62-year-old golfer recently completed a one-year prison term for failure to pay $1.6 million in taxes between 2002 and 2004 and spent 10 months in an Alabama prison camp before transferring to a halfway house and home detention.
Thorpe was released Jan. 17 and is back on the Champions Tour for the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, which opened Friday at TPC Tampa Bay. It’s his first tournament since 2009.
“I did what I had to do there, and, no, you don’t want to be there,” Thorpe said. “I had to make it work, and you’d be surprised what you can do when you have to do something. I don’t want to see any of you guys go there, but I had to accept it.
“I apologize to everyone for the mistakes that I made, and I blame no one else but myself. I did the things I had do to and just want to move forward.”
Thorpe, who had three PGA Tour wins in the 1980s, joined the Champions Tour in 1998 and is making his 12th appearance at Outback, where his best finish was a tie for fourth in 2003. Thorpe was last on tour two years ago, appearing in 22 events and posting three top-10 finishes, including eighth at the Outback.
Kevin Na will remember the ninth hole at the Texas Open for a long time.
Na set a new low Thursday for the worst par-4 hole in the PGA Tour record books, shooting a 16 with a nightmarish sequence of shots.
His problems included an unplayable lie from the tee, a two-stroke penalty after the ball ricocheted off a tree and struck him, and five consecutive strokes from the woods.
Na ended the first round thinking he shot a 15 on the hole. But another stroke was added after Na reviewed the video replay before signing his scorecard. He finished the round with an 8-over 80.
The worst single-hole score at a PGA Tour event belongs to John Daly, who had an 18 on the par-5 sixth hole at Bay Hill in 1998. Ray Ainsley took 19 shots on the par-4 16th hole at Cherry Hills in the 1938 U.S. Open.
Jan Stephenson is set to appear on the 2011 version of Dancing with the Stars.
Stephenson's golfing legacy is probably a little overshadowed by the controversy surrounding her marketing approach but let's not forget she was one very talented golfer. She won 25 times in her professional career including three majors and 16 victories on the LPGA tour.
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