GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Australian Michael Sim continued his dominating start to the 2009 Nationwide Tour season by collecting his second tournament title in his last three starts and extending his lead on the money to record levels. The 24-year-old from Perth topped Argentina's Fabian Gomez on the first hole of a playoff at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, adding that crystal trophy to the one he captured at the Stonebrae Classic in California last month. In between the wins, Sim also suffered a playoff loss at the Athens Regional Foundation Classic.
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The victory was worth $126,000 and pushed his season total to an eye-popping $367,417 in just seven starts. Sim's advantage over No. 2 Garth Mulroy is an even more impressive $211,136. Never before in the 20-year history of the Tour has the distance between the top two players been as great. The previous record for the separation of powers was $138,430 between Troy Matteson and Jason Gore, but Matteson needed the entire 2005 season to gain that edge.
The former world No.1-ranked amateur also has a third and a tie for fourth this year and his money earned already ranks as the 16th-best single-season total in Tour history with 20 events still left on the schedule.
"I had a great off-season and I sat down with my coaches and set some goals for the year," he said. "I hadn't really been doing that lately. My biggest goal was to try and win three times. I also wanted to finish No. 1 on the money list."
Sim held a three-shot lead to begin the overcast round at the Thornblade Club and his 2-under 69 was enough to force a playoff with Gomez, who was nearly perfect in posting a 6-under 65 to reach 22-under 264 while playing in the group immediately in front of the Scottish-born, part-time Scottsdale, Ariz., resident.
Halfway through the final nine holes, a light rain turned steady and would continue until Sim knocked in a 4-foot par putt that put him two-thirds of the way to his achieving his biggest goal of the 2009 campaign.
In the playoff, Sim wound up in a deep, front-right, greenside bunker on the uphill, 488-yard closing hole. Gomez, who had saved par from that same bunker on the final hole of regulation, was 45 feet from the pin. Sim knocked his third shot close while Gomez left his first putt six feet short, setting the stage for the final drama.
"Even after I hit my second into that bunker, I never really felt like I was out of the playoff," said Sim, who admitted he doesn't like playing in the rain. "I thought I might have hit it a touch heavy but you're hitting into an upslope and it checked up pretty good."
Gomez, who hung around the scorer's tent to see the end of regulation, watched as his par attempt slid past the cup on the low side. Sim evened his career playoff record at 2-2 when he canned his putt for par.
The day ended in success after starting in disaster for the Aussie who battled flu symptoms all week. Sim's three-stroke lead evaporated on the first hole when Gomez made birdie and Sim struggled to make double-bogey after clanking his first and second shots in the trees that guard the left side of the opening par-4.
"When I walked to the second tee I wasn't too worried," said Sim. "I knew I was playing well and I knew there were a lot of holes left. I just needed to give myself some chances. I did feel like I let the field back in."
Gomez stayed stride for stride with Sim before a birdie at No. 8 gave him the outright lead. Sim needed a six-foot par-save on No. 9 to pull his round together.
"If I missed that putt, things might have changed on the back," he said. "The putter started feeling better in my hands and hole started looking like a bucket again."
Sim made birdies at Nos. 10, 12 and 14 to grab a temporary two-shot lead over Gomez, who made back-to-back birdies starting at No. 15 to square things up again.
"I was sort of struggling with my swing all day," said Sim, who hit only 10 of 18 greens. "My short game was good today. It definitely kept me in the tournament."
On the final hole of regulation, Gomez rolled in a 10-foot par putt after blasting from the bunker. Sim two-putted from 30 feet for par, thus forcing the third playoff in the tournament's 18-year history and the first since 2004.
In the extra session, the two swapped positions from regulation play, though Sim was a bit closer in the bunker and Gomez was a little further away on the green. The final results, though, came with different endings.
Sim also teamed with singer Javier Colon to win the pro-am division of the tournament, which was played on three courses in two states and paired celebrities and amateurs together with pros in a best-ball format. The tandem shot a final-round 62 to wind up at 47-under par, three better than two-time winners Kyle Thompson and former Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and pro Bradley Iles and partner Bob Smith.
• Rich Barcelo shot a 6-under 65 despite a double-bogey on his opening hole. Barcelo was late to the first tee and was assessed a two-stroke penalty to begin his day. He then bogeyed his second hole before settling down with nine birdies the rest of the day. Barcelo tied for 19th.
• Craig Bowden's 7-under 64 today was his best round of the year. It also marked his best score on the Nationwide Tour since an 8-under 63 in the second round of the 2006 Cox Classic in Omaha, Neb.
• Geoffrey Sisk earned his second top-10 of the year with a T7 this week. Sisk is off to a solid start in 2009. The 44-year-old New England resident moved up to No. 18 on the money list. The last time Sisk had two top-10s in a single season came in 2000. His best year on the Nationwide Tour was 1998 when he had five top-10s and finished No. 38 on the money list with $71,849.
• Roger Tambellini notched his fourth consecutive top-10 finish in this event. Tambellini posted a final-round 64 to vault into a tie for seventh. The 64 is his lowest score in this event. He tied for fifth in 2005, tied for seventh in 2007 and was runner-up last year.
• Dustin Bray posted a career-best, 8-under 63 in Sunday's final round. Bray moved up to finish tied for fifth. His previous low round was a 7-under 64 in the opening round of the 2007 Albertsons Boise Open.
• Washington's Alex Prugh carded weekend scores of 65-65 to vault into a tie for ninth. Prugh had missed three straight cuts since winning the Michael Hill New Zealand Open.
• D.J. Brigman moved up in the standings Sunday with a 6-under 65 and a tie for third. After finishing No. 30 on the 2008 money list, Brigman has struggled in 2009. He began the year with a T23 at the Panama Digicel Championship but then missed five consecutive cuts and tied for 50th at the South Georgia Classic.
• Tom Scherrer shot an even-par 71 thanks to 18 pars. Scherrer hit 14 greens in regulation but needed 30 putts.
• Scoring averages for the three courses: