By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
VALDOSTA, Ga. – Will Wilcox fired a one-over-par 73 and cruised to a four-stroke win at the South Georgia Classic, his first career title on the Web.com Tour. Wilcox began the final round at the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club with a whopping seven-stroke lead – courtesy of a course-record 63 Saturday – and never let any of his challengers get closer than the final margin all afternoon.
The 26-year-old from Alabama bogeyed the 72nd hole but it didn’t matter as he finished at 15-under par, well in front of Monday qualifier Zack Sucher (65), D.J. Brigman (70) and Michael Putnam (70).
Alex Rocha (67), Andrew Loupe (70) and Ryan Spears (71) tied for fifth place, five shots back.
“This is just surreal. I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life,” said Wilcox, who adopted a ‘better golf through cleaner living’ approach at the start of the year. “I’ve made some really big changes in my life and that’s obviously what I needed to do and continue with.”
Wilcox, a third-year pro, picked up a check for $117,000 and vaulted from No. 55 to No. 3 as the Tour reached the one-third mark of the 2013 schedule. His season total of $139,061 puts him on track to finish among The 25 leading money winners this year and earn a spot on the PGA TOUR in 2014.
“I can’t even think that far ahead right now,” said Wilcox, trying to gain some perspective of what might be ahead.
Sunday’s finale was not without a bit of drama as Wilcox stumbled a few times but managed to rebound quickly and dash the hopes of anyone tying to catch him.
“I barely slept. I woke up at 4 a.m. My heart was racing but I was so tired,” said the winner of his Saturday night. “It just wasn’t fun at all and I was ready to just get back to the golf course this morning.”
Wilcox ripped a drive at the par-5, 2nd hole and needed only an 8-iron to reach the green in two. A two-putt birdie settled his nerves and increased his lead.
Bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6 dropped him to 15-under par and cut his lead to four strokes. Wilcox then stiff-armed the field at the par-4, 7th hole when he holed a wedge from 135 yards for an eagle-2.
“Four shots with 12 to play doesn’t sound very good but six up with 11 to go is a lot better. I don’t even know what to say,” said Wilcox, who holed a 7-iron for an eagle-2 in Saturday’s record-setting round. “I can’t believe I holed two shots on the weekend. It’s mind blowing. It’s just the damndest thing. I haven’t got any idea what gotten into me.”
Wilcox remained comfortably in front until he stumbled again at the par-5, 11th hole.
“I was being too aggressive and just snapped it into the hazard,” he said. “I took a drop but was on some rocks and lost my footing and hit it into the hazard again. I had to take another drop, hitting five from 188 yards. That came up 70 feet short of the green and I putted that to 10 feet and canned it. It was a good double, I mean people were clapping for me making seven.”
Much like his life, Wilcox made a 180-degree turn on the next hole, the 490-yard, 12th hole which played as the toughest all week.
The hole, site of his surprise eagle on Saturday, yielded only five birdies Sunday. Wilcox made his from 25 feet, which put him 4-under on the hole over four days.
“I relaxed when I saw nobody was making a move,” said the now laid-back champion. “The walk up 18 was sweet.”
Fourth-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Sunday’s weather: Mostly sunny. Wind S-SE 8-16 mph. High of 86.
-- Wilcox has made the cut in four of his six starts this year. His only other top-25 finish was a T12 at the Chile Classic.
-- Wilcox picked up a check for $117,000 and increased his season total to $139,061. He moved from No. 55 to No. 3 on the money list.
-- Wilcox earned his first career Web.com Tour win in his 49th career start.
-- Wilcox became the fourth first-time winner in seven events on Tour this year. He joined Kevin Foley (Panama Claro Championship), Patrick Cantlay (Colombia Championship) and Benjamin Alvarado (Brasil Classic) as first-time winners in 2013.
-- Wilcox bogeyed his final hole Saturday after hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker. The mistake cost him a chance to tie the largest 54-hole in Tour history:
8 strokes - Steve Wheatcroft, 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open (won by 12)
7 strokes - Greg Kraft, 2005 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic (won by 2)
7 strokes - Parker McLachlin, 2007 National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic (T4)
7 strokes - Will Wilcox, 2013 South Georgia Classic (won by 4)
-- When Wilcox missed a 10-foot par putt on the final hole, he also missed out on an unofficial Tour record. Wilcox settled for a 63, five strokes better than anyone else could manage for the day. While there is nothing in the record books, research indicates that the largest one-day stroke differential in Tour history is six. Notah Begay shot a 13-under 59 in the second round of the 1998 Dominion Open. The next-best score that day was 65 by Jim Estes, Perry Moss and Bob Burns, who went on to win that week in suburban Richmond, Virginia.
-- Wilcox set a career-best with his 63 in the third round. His previous best in 48 career starts was a 7-under 64 in the second round of the 2012 Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship.
-- Zach Sucher fired the day’s best round, a 7-under 65 that vaulted him into a tie for second place. By finishing in the top-25, Sucher (SOO-ker) earns a berth in next week’s Stadion Classic at UGA in Athens.
“My immediate goal this week was just to get in the top25 so I could play again next week,” said Sucher, who started the day 12 shots off the pace. “I had no thoughts about winning. I just wanted to get it going on the front and then see what might happen on the back.”
Sucher made four birdies and an eagle on the front and turned in 6-under 30 after playing that side in two-over the first three days.
“I had the putter going,” he said. “I guess at that point I started thinking about maybe the top-10 but the goal was still to do well enough to play next week.”
Sucher played on Tour in 2011 and made only five cuts in 11 starts. His best finish was a T32 at the Price Cutter Charity Championship and he wound up No. 174 on the money list. Sucher, 26, graduated from the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2009 and now lives in Atlanta.
-- Brazil’s Alex Rocha birdied four of his final five holes Sunday for a 5-under 67 and finished in the top-5 for the second time this year. He was T4 at the Colombia Championship. Rocha moved up to No. 19 on the money list.
-- Daniel Bowden, a Monday qualifier who was born in Valdosta, will be heading to Athens for the Stadion Classic at UGA thanks to his T8 effort this week. Bowden, 24, graduated from Furman University in South Carolina in 2010 and was making only his third career start on Tour. He finished 67th at last year’s BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C. and missed the cut at The Rex Hospital Open, where he was also a Monday qualifier.
-- Sponsor exemption Adam Mitchell fired a 5-under 67 and moved up to finish T15, which also earned him a spot in next week’s tournament in Athens, where he was a member of the Bulldog golf team and an All-America selection. Mitchell graduated from UGA in 2009 and was a member of the 2009 United States Walker Cup team. This was his sixth career start, dating back to 2008 when he finished T51 as an amateur at the Chattanooga Classic. Mitchell, an Atlanta resident, had made two previous cuts on Tour and his best finish was a T45 at the 2011 News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn.
-- Leading money winner Edward Loar stumbled on the weekend with rounds of 78-76 and wound up T58. Despite the finish, Loar maintained his place at No. 1 on the money list, where he has now been for four weeks.
-- Did you know that the first automated teller machine (ATM) was installed at C&S Bank in Valdosta. President George W. Bush received his National Guard flight training at Valdosta’s Moody Air Force Base in November 1968.
-- Did you know that Valdosta has been home to Western gunfighter Doc Holliday, former University of Georgia quarterbacks Buck Belue and John Lastinger and PGA TOUR member Briny Baird.
-- The Web.com Tour will head approximately 240 miles to the north for next week’s event – the Stadion Classic at UGA. The tournament will be held at the University of Georgia golf course. Last year, former UGA All-American Hudson Swafford fired a course-record, 9-under 62 in the final round to earn his first career win. Swafford capped off his day by holing a bunker shot to finish at 17-under 267. He then had to wait 90 minutes for the remaining groups to finish. Luke List, winner of the South Georgia Classc the previous week, shared the lead but bogeyed the final hole to drop into a tie for second place.
|Course statistics for the week|
|Several players made sizeable jumps on the money list thanks to top finishes this week:|