It wasn’t the prettiest finish but in the end Lee Westwood could care less as his preparation for the United States Open Championship looks to be on track with his win at the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic today. And while he eventually was the winner, it is hard to ignore what might have been the bigger story today – the demise of Robert Garrigus.
If Garrigus said he never wanted to play the 18th hole at TPC Southwind ever again you could hardly blame him. After surging back into the lead on the back nine Sunday at the St. Jude Classic the Idaho native gave it all away on the 18th hole. Not once; but twice.
Sitting at 13 under par and three strokes clear of European duo Lee Westwood (England) and Robert Karlsson (Sweden), Garrigus squandered the lead with a disastrous triple bogey on the 72nd hole of the tournament. On the first hole of the resulting playoff with the European an oak tree encumbered bogey sent him home without his first PGA Tour win.
“It was really tough,” the long bombing Garrigus told CBS’ David Feherty after bowing out of the playoff. ‘She went left and that wasn’t good,” he said, referring to the hooked tee shot in the pond on the 72nd hole on his way to a bogey. Full credit for Garrigus for even taking the interview. After a week that started with a bad case of food poisoning (clam chowder in Phoenix = bad idea) he was genuinely happy to even be in a playoff and had an admirable perspective even after taking 12 strokes to play the final par four two times. “I felt like I handled everything great today except for one swing. There are little things that you need to do to win. I’ll learn from that and next time I’ll get it done.”
Left to battle it out for the title in the first PGA Tour playoff of their illustrious careers Karlsson and Westwood showed why they have become cornerstones of the European Tour. But even they showed some nerves. After two pars each in the playoff the tournament came down to a putting contest from 5 feet on the 3rd extra hole where both players left their par putts on almost the exact same spot. Each required an unfathomable two putts to continue the stumbling drama.
Mercifully Lee Westwood ended it all on the 4th playoff hole with a birdie. It gave the #3 ranked player in the world just his second win on the PGA Tour, coming 12 years after his first.
It was an improbable win, but Westwood got himself into position early on Sunday with three straight birdies on holes two through four before coasting his way for most of the day. He had great chances on holes 15 and 16 to make birdie but failed to do so and a bogey on 17 looked to be the sign that he needed to get on a plane and head for Pebble Beach.
That was until Garrigus had his 18th hole adventure.
“You just never know what golf will throw at you,” commented Westwood just prior to starting the extra frames.
Clearly he was the class of the field and his opening tally of 63 pushed him immediately to prominence this week. 68, 71, 68 to follow were not as spectacular but a veteran player like him knows what it takes to get a win. This title brings his worldwide victory total to 32.
And better than securing the million plus dollars and his 1st PGA Tour win in ages today it showed he is primed and ready to try and add win #33 next week.
Yes, winning this week was important to him but next week’s United States Open Championship is clearly his focus.
After so many close calls at major championships it looks like he is as ready as ever to make it happen.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)