Wheatcroft wins Albertsons Boise Open in playoff
July 20, 2014
By Joe Chemycz, PGATOUR.COM
- Steve Wheatcroft won the Albertsons Boise Open on Sunday. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
BOISE, Idaho – Steve Wheatcroft rolled in 10-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat Steven Alker and win the 25th Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco. The pair battled back and forth during a pressure-packed Sunday at Hillcrest Country Club and wound up tied at 24-under par after regulation play.
Wheatcroft watched as Alker’s 30-foot birdie try stopped a couple feet short of the cup and then calmly stepped up and canned the putt to change his season, and perhaps his career, around.
“This is unbelievable. I’m just speechless,” said the 36-year old from Jacksonville, Fla., who won for the second time in his career. “I’ve been playing so badly this year that I thought I might be done. I lost all belief.”
Wheatcroft, with his first child due next month, may have hit bottom earlier this summer and thought about quitting but rediscovered his game at last week’s Utah Championship where he finished T21 after opening with rounds of 65-66.
“There’s something about this place,” said Wheatcroft, runner-up to Luke Guthrie here in 2012. “It started to sink in a few weeks ago that if I didn’t start playing better I’d have to find something else to do. I knew I had to keep fighting and I had some good tournaments ahead of me. I really thought I was going to win this week.”
Wheatcroft started the final day two shots back of Alker, who broke the tournament’s 54-hole record with a 20-under 195 total.
The Indiana grad closed the gap quickly on his playing partner with a pair of birdies followed by a 50- to 60-foot eagle putt on the third hole to wrest control of the lead away from the transplanted New Zealander .
Alker, steady and methodical, regained a share of the lead with birdies at Nos. 9 and 10 and went two up when Wheatcroft chalked up back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13.
“Had the lead and had a good-looking lead and I got ahead a little bit. Walking to 14 I way trying not to hang my head,” said Wheatcroft. “It was a good lesson going forward. I had to get back in the mindset to make birdies because out here nobody is going backwards.”
Rookie Justin Thomas put a charge on late and posted a 65 to reach 22-under, good for solo third place.
Indiana rookie Chase Wright (66), No. 2 money winner Andrew Putnam (66) and second-round co-leader Zack Sucher (70) all made their presence known but wound up tied for fourth, five off the pace.
That left the stage to the final duo of Wheatcroft and Alker as they punched and counter-punched.
Wheatcroft birdied 14 and 15 and regained the lead when Alker three-putted No. 15 for a bogey. Alker, winner of the Cleveland Open earlier this year, responded with a birdie at the par-5, 16th to tie for the lead again at 23-under.
The pair then traded birdie putts on the par-3, 17th – with Wheatcroft rolling his in from 12 feet and Alker responding with one of his own from 10 feet.
“He followed me right in there,” said Wheatcroft. “That’s the way it should be. It’s fun to be in a good battle like that.”
After missing lengthy birdie putts on the final hole the pair headed back to the 18th tee for the fifth playoff in tournament history and the second in as many years.
“It was a right edge putt and I wasn’t sure if I hit it hard enough,” said Wheatcroft of the winner. “I had a similar putt in regulation so that helped. I knew what it was going to do at the end.
The victory for Wheatcroft, his first since capturing the 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open by a Tour-record 12 strokes, was worth $144,000 and vaulted him from No. 89 to No. 11 on the money list and guaranteed him to return trip to the PGA TOUR in 2015.
“I’ve had an awful year and now I’ve had two good weeks and now it’s a good year,” said Wheatcroft. “With a baby on the way you worry about where the money is going to come from. That check is going to pay for a lot of diapers.”
Steve Wheatcroft wins Albertsons Boise Open
FINAL ROUND NOTES:
• Sunday weather: Mostly sunny, partly cloudy by mid-afternoon. Wind: Calm in the morning, NE 5 mph in the afternoon. High of 97.
• Wheatcroft earned his second career win. His first win came at the 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open in suburban Washington D.C.
• Wheatcroft earns his second win in his 129th Web.com Tour start.
• Wheatcroft picks up a check for $144,000 to push his season total to $179,365. He jumps from No. 89 to No. 11 on the money list after 16 of 21 regular season events.
• Wheatcroft wins at the age of 36 years, 4 months and 29 days.
• Wheatcroft has made the cut in 7 of 15 starts on the Web.com Tour this year. This is his fourth top-25 finish but his first top-10.
• This was the first time in Wheatcroft’s career he has been involved in a playoff.
• Wheatcroft played full time on the PGA TOUR in 2007, 2010 and 2012 and has made 29 cuts in 79 career starts. He has not made a start on TOUR this year and made only one in 2013 (T22/Shell Houston Open). His career-best finish is a T3 at the 2010 Puerto Rico Open.
• This was Wheatcroft’s seventh start in Boise and he has advanced to the weekend all seven times. Wheatcroft finished T17 last year, T2 in 2012 and has two other top-25 finishes at Hillcrest CC.
• Wheatcroft posted scores of 64-66-65-65 this week, giving him 26 of 28 par-or-better scores at Hillcrest CC. His only two hiccups were 1-over 72’s in the final rounds in 2006 and 2009. Wheatcroft has posted scores in the 60s in his last 17 rounds at the Albertsons Boise Open.
• Wheatcroft and Steven Alker bettered the tournament’s 72-hole record of 23-under par, which was set by last year’s playoff participants Spencer Levin and champion Kevin Tway.
• Sunday’s playoff was the fifth in tournament history (1991, 1994, 2005, 2013, 2014).
• Sunday’s playoff was the fourth of the Web.com Tour season (Chitimacha Louisiana Open, Cleveland Open, Nova Scotia Open, Albertsons Boise Open).
• Runner-up Steven Alker collected a check for $86,400 and moved from No. 19 to No. 9 on the money list. Alker, now has earned $211,580 and will be returning to the PGA TOUR next year. The 42-year old Phoenix-area resident played the TOUR full-time in 2003 and has made 40 career starts. His best finish came at the 2003 Buick Invitational where he finished solo 17th. Alker qualified for The Open Championship in 2012 and finished T19.
• This was Alker’s first playoff loss after three previous wins – 2002 Chitimacha Louisiana Open, 2013 Utah Championship and 2014 Cleveland Open.
• Rookie Justin Thomas carded weekend scores of 64-65 and wound up solo third, his fifth top-10 in 13 starts this season. Thomas upped his season total to $246,856 and moved from No. 8 to No. 4 on the money list. The former Alabama standout has yet to win this year but was runner-up at the Mexico Championship.
• Chase Wright, an Indiana grad like Wheatcroft, carded a 5-under 66 to move into a tie for fourth place. Wright has four top-10 finishes in his last six starts and has moved from No. 135 to No. 34 over that stretch.
• Wheatcroft led the field with 27 birdies.
• Alker finished T1 in total putts with 105 while Steve Wheatcroft was 3rd with 106.
• Monday qualifier Joey Garber, making his first career start on the Web.com Tour, tied for 10th place and earned a berth in next week’s Midwest Classic in Kansas City. Garber, originally from Petoskey, Mich., led the field in fairways hit (43 of 56). He turned pro in June after finishing up a stellar college career at the University of Georgia. His only other start came at the PGA TOUR’s Travelers Championship, where he received a sponsor exemption but missed the 36-hole cut.
• Best rounds of the day:
65 – Matt Davidson, Jeff Gove, Justin Thomas, Steve Wheatcroft
• NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads to the Kansas City area for the Midwest Classic at Nicklaus GC at LionsGate July 21-27. Last year, Jamie Lovemark earned his second career win with a one-stroke victory. Lovemark posted an 18-under 266 total to top Mark Anderson and collect a first-place check for $108,000.