MITCHELLVILLE, Md. -- Paul Claxton shot a bogey-free final-round 67 to win the inaugural Melwood Prince George's County Open by one stroke over Jaco Van Zyl and James Driscoll Sunday in suburban Washington, D.C. Claxton takes home $108,000 and becomes the first player in Nationwide Tour history to surpass $1 million in career earnings.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|PAUL CLAXTON'S FINAL STATS|
Claxton birdied the 17th hole Sunday and saved par with a three-foot putt on the 18th to finish the tournament at 18-under-par 270.
Claxton hit every fairway over the course of his final round for his first victory since the 2001 Louisiana Open. The victory moves him to No. 3 on the Nationwide Tour money list and should go a long way toward securing his position inside "The 25," which would mean a PGA TOUR card for the 2008 season.
The victory puts Claxton's career leading-money earnings at more than $1.1 million. In his 10th season on Tour and his 269th event, Claxton takes great pride in what he has accomplished.
"I'm very proud of what I've done. It's an honor to play on the Nationwide Tour," said the University of Georgia graduate. "There are thousands of players out there that would give anything for a chance to play on the Nationwide Tour. People can call it minor or developmental, but I would tell those people to come out here for a week and play. There's nothing minor about playing on this Tour."
Van Zyl, Claxton's partner in the final pairing, nearly birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff in a duel that lasted the entire round. They began the day at 13 under par as part of a three-way tie for the lead. James Driscoll shot a 66 to tie Van Zyl for second.
Van Zyl chipped in for birdie from the rough on No. 15 to tie Claxton at 17 under. After both made par on No. 16, Claxton birdied No. 17 with a 16-foot uphill putt. Van Zyl missed the same putt from one foot closer.
On the par-5 18th, Van Zyl missed his 25-foot birdie putt by an inch. Claxton laid up but hit his 25-foot downhill birdie putt three feet past the hole. He made his short par putt, though, to win.
"He makes it look like it's Friday afternoon and he's out playing golf with three friends," Van Zyl said of Claxton. "He made it look easy out there."
Claxton turned professional in 1993. His Nationwide Tour career began in 1995, and he has played there every year with the exception of the three seasons he spent on the PGA TOUR (1997, 2002 and 2005). Claxton nearly won earlier this season after shooting 64-65 on the weekend at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, but lost on the third playoff hole to Skip Kendall.
"You have to have a little luck. There are no weak fields on this Tour," Claxton said. "You have to cherish your time in the winner's circle and work hard to get back there. I'm in good position to join (the PGA TOUR) next year, but there's no letting up now. I have to keep going."
Driscoll shot a bogey-free 66 that included four birdies and an eagle on Sunday to finish at 17-under 281. The T2 finish is Driscoll's first top-10 of the year and moves him to No. 27 on the money list.
Nick Flanagan, the Australian who won his last two Nationwide Tour events coming into the tournament and would have earned an immediate promotion to the PGA TOUR with a victory, shot a 66 to finish at 14 under in a tie for fifth. The leading money winner this season on the Nationwide Tour will try again at next week's LaSalle Bank Open for a victory would give him the first "Three-Win Promotion" since Jason Gore in 2005.
Fourth-Round News & Notes: Paul Claxton, James Driscoll shot bogey-free rounds on Saturday. ... Claxton's score of 18 under is the lowest winning score with relation to par this season. ... The scoring average for Sunday's round was 70.870. The most difficult hole this week was the par-4 16th, playing to an average of .301 strokes over par and yielding only 28 birdies for the tournament.
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