Porter scores comeback win at South Georgia Classic

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Australian Ewan Porter won his second Nationwide Tour title at the South Georgia Classic.
April 25, 2010
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR staff

VALDOSTA, Ga. -- Australian Ewan Porter figured out a way to keep his emotions in check, and it paid off with his second career win on the Nationwide Tour. Porter fired a final-round 2-under 70 and won the rain-delayed South Georgia Classic by one shot over second-year pro Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela.

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Porter finished four trips around the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club at 11-under 277, one better than Vegas, who refused to fold under Sunday's back-nine pressure. Veteran Brandt Jobe closed with a 69 to wind up at 9 under and solo third while Canadian David Hearn, who held the outright led after each of the first three rounds, shot a 2-over 74 and wound up fourth.

"I'm absolutely stunned to have done this," said Porter, who had missed all four cuts on Tour this year. "To be honest, I didn't expect too much this week. This is totally unexpected. It's overwhelming. This is a huge step forward in my career."

Playing in the final threesome with Hearn and Vegas, Porter made up a one-stroke deficit on Hearn with a birdie on the second hole and hovered near the lead for a few holes before taking command with birdies at Nos. 8, 10 and 11 to go up by three.

"The putt on eight was a big one," said Porter of the 30-footer. "I was just trying to lag it down there close. And then the chip-in on 10 was the same thing, I was just trying to get it up there close. I played with Jhonattan the last 36 holes, and I tried not to let his length intimidate me. I knew that if I could just keep it in play I'll be able to handle it."

Porter handled it just fine, making clutch pars and only one bogey down the stretch.

"I feel a little more comfortable on the back nine here. I can just picture the shots better," said Porter. "Those last five holes, my comfort level allowed me to open up my shoulders and relax a bit."

Vegas had a couple of chances but couldn't get the putts to fall. Hearn was the victim of a couple of loose shots and failed to put any hard pressure on the Aussie.

"I definitely felt the pressure down the stretch," said Porter. "I didn't want to play another hole that's for sure. My heart rate was way too high, and I could feel the collar getting a little tight. It was a wonderful battle with them today and I was fortunate to come out on top."

The key to Porter's win came on the greens, where he finished second in putting. It was quite a turnaround from a week ago when he missed the cut in Shanghai, China.

"I have to be honest, I hit the ball ten times better last week," he said. "My putting was absolutely amazing. Last week I putted like Stevie Wonder and this week I putted like Brad Faxon."

Porter finished off the win with a steady, two-putt par from 25 on the 72nd hole. Not bad for a guy who wasn't sure if he'd wind up playing this Tour or one back home.

Porter has had a tumultuous last few months. Plans to settle in West Palm Beach with his girlfriend fell through at the last minute when a job for her didn't materialize. After missing the cut in Shanghai, he flew to South Florida to clean out his apartment. He arrived in South Georgia on Wednesday night and teed it up without the benefit of a practice round.

"It's definitely amazing when you don't throw clubs and don't get ahead of yourself," said Porter. "It's a big lesson learned in terms of demeanor and such and I've still got a lot to learn."

Fourth-Round Notes:

* The start of the final round was delayed 4 1/2 hours due to overnight and morning storms that produced 1.75 inches of rain. The first groups teed off at 12:30 p.m. and the final groups teed off at 2:30 p.m.

* Ewan Porter moved to No. 6 on the 2010 money list. Leading money-winner Bobby Gates was T20 this week and maintains his spot at No. 1, where he's been since winning the season-opening Michael Hill New Zealand Open.

* This was only the third time in Nationwide Tour history that a player has held the outright 54-hole lead in consecutive weeks. David Hearn also held the lead after three rounds last week in Hayward, California. Jason Gore in 2002 and Joe Durant in 1996 had greater success than David Hearn:

Player Event 54-hole lead Final-round score Result
David Hearn 2010 Fresh Express Classic 1 67 lost by 1 to Kevin Chappell
David Hearn 2010 South Georgia Classic 1 74 lost by 3
Jason Gore 2002 Oregon Classic 2 71 won by 3
Jason Gore 2002 Albertsons Boise Open 3 73 won by 2
Joe Durant 1996 Shreveport Open 3 73 lost by 1 to Tim Loustalot
Joe Duran 1996 Mississippi Gulf Coast 2 70 won by 1

* Not a bad week for Californian Michael Putnam. The 26-year old was the eighth alternate when the week began but eventually made it into the field. He fired rounds of 69-68-72-72 to finish T5. Putnam was 0-2 in cuts made this year, missing at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open and last week's Fresh Express Classic, where he got into the field as a Monday qualifier. This is Putnam's best finish on the Nationwide Tour since a T2 at the 2005 Utah Energy Solutions Championship. .

* Jhonattan Vegas led the tournament with 3 eagles, including one on No. 5 today. No other player in the field had more than one this week.

* Rookie William McGirt was solo seventh. The 30-year old rookie posted rounds of 70-70-71-71, McGirt now has a pair of top-10 finishes in three starts this year. He was T3 at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open last month. He also moves up from No. 34 to No. 20 on the money list.

* Monday qualifier Mark Blakefield qualified for next week's Stadion Athens Classic by virtue of his T13 finish. Blakefield posted the best round of the day today, a bogey-free, 6-under 66 that included birdies on three of his final four holes. He began the day tied for 49th spot. Blakefield played four years at the University of Kentucky (2001-05) and has been playing on the Hooters Tour since. This was his first career start on the Nationwide Tour. He has never made a start on the PGA TOUR.

* Ewan Porter led the tournament with 22 birdies. .

* This was the third time that David Hearn has held the lead after 54 holes in a Nationwide Tour event. Hearn held a 3-shot lead at the 2004 Alberta Classic, his 7th career start on Tour. He then went 111 starts before he led after the third round again -- last week's Fresh Express Classic.

Event 54-hole lead Rd. 4 score Finish
2004 Alberta Classic 3 71 won by 1
2010 Fresh Express Classic 1 67 finished second by 1 to Kevin Chappell
2010 South Georgia Classic 1 74 finished fourth by 3 to Ewan Porter

* Jason Kokrak, making his second career start on the Nationwide Tour, finished T13. The former Xavier University star finished T44 at the 2007 Legends Financial Group Classic, where he played as an amateur. Kokrak's only PGA TOUR start was a missed cut at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he posted scores of 76-80.

* Best rounds of the day -- 66: Mark Blakefield; 68 -- Scott Brown, Miguel Carballo, Trevor Murphy

* Sunday's scoring average was 72.917

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