Garnett wins Utah Championship in comeback fashion
July 16, 2017
By Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM
- Missouri native Brice Garnett shot a final-round 65 at Oakridge CC to secure a one-shot win at 21 under. (Nick Parker/PGA TOUR)
FARMINGTON, Utah – Brice Garnett earned his first career Web.com Tour victory and a return to the PGA TOUR on Sunday with birdies on two of his last four holes at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank. Garnett’s final-round, 6-under 65 at Oakridge Country Club helped him come from three shots back entering the day to post a 21-under 263 total, edging out Abraham Ancer (63), Austin Cook (65) and Rob Oppenheim (69) by one shot.
“First win out here is huge,” Garnett said. “It gets me over that magical number, and it’s hard. It’s hard to win on any Tour, and it’s hard to win knowing that there’s a little carrot at the end of the road of going to the PGA TOUR. It feels great, and I worked my butt off for two years, and to be going back is really, really special.”
Playing in the fourth-to-last group, Garnett took a share of the lead for the first time at the par-5 15th with a birdie. He seized sole possession at the 16th, where he dropped a wedge to 4 feet for the birdie. With pars on 17 and 18, he posted 21-under and headed to the range to wait and see if it would hold.
“Yesterday I felt like I should have birdied all of the last four holes, and missed a couple good putts. I just told my caddie, ‘Let’s do exactly what we did yesterday and birdie them all and take this down,’” Garnett said. “I was able to get two of them, and they were two of the biggest birdies of my career.”
Brice Garnett interview after winning Utah Championship
When Garnett signed with McCarthy and Oppenheim only one shot behind with three holes to play, he thought he was either heading to a playoff or would get left out of one. Instead, he learned on the driving range as he warmed up again that he was heading back to the TOUR, where he’d played the last three seasons before having to head back to the Web.com Tour this season.
“I feel like it’s kind of been a while coming. Everything just kind of went my way, and that’s what happens when you win,” Garnett said. “Just extremely happy. 21-under. I thought 23 is what it would have taken today, but I hung tough and came out on top.”
For much of the day, it looked like Oppenheim would come out on top and get his second Web.com Tour victory. The 37-year-old held a share of the lead entering the day and promptly holed out from 139 yards at the first for eagle. He added a birdie at the second and another at the seventh to get to 22-under, but the race tightened up and Garnett got back in it when Oppenheim three-putted for bogey at the ninth and made a costly double at the 11th.
“You start like that, that’s a dream start,” Oppenheim said. “Coming in, I was feeling good and you hole out (on the) first hole, you’re like, ‘Maybe this is going to be a special day.’ I felt good, I was playing good the whole front nine. Made the three-putt on No. 9 and things just started to go a little sour. On the back nine, the greens just got really firm and it was tough to hold them.”
Oppenheim got within one of Garnett’s lead with his final birdie of the day at the par-4 13th and needed one more birdie coming in to force a playoff, which he couldn’t do after hitting his tee shot in the trees on the gettable par-5 15th. With wedges in his hand at Nos. 16 and 17, the Salem, Massachusetts native didn’t give himself great looks at birdie.
Oppenheim’s last chance to tie came on the 72nd hole, where he tugged his tee shot into the left rough. His approach was on a great line, but coming out of the rough, he couldn’t hold it and it bounced just over the green. His chip looked good for much of the way but lipped out.
“It was a tough chip, but I knew what I had to do, so I gave it a chance,” Oppenheim said. “I knew it was a little bit hard; it was tough to see how it was going to come out of that grass, but I gave it a chance. It wasn’t that, though, I had other opportunities down the stretch and just didn’t get anything done. I had it 22-under at one point.”
Rob Oppenheim's eagle hole out is the Shot of the Day
Ancer, who teed off nearly three-and-a-half hours ahead of the final group, entered the day six shots back of the lead and was just hoping to play his way into the top-5 with a 63. He got the 63 he wanted but nearly won the golf tournament, posting a 20-under 264 that was just one short of a playoff. Most importantly, that T2 finish helped him secure his return to the PGA TOUR, as the $52,267 moved him up to fifth on the Regular Season money list with $213,128.83 in earnings for the season and locked up his TOUR card.
“It’s incredible, man,” Ancer said. “That was the goal at the beginning of the year and now that it’s secured, it’s great. All the work has been paying off, and I’ve been staying patient. I’m super excited. I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Cook had his chance at a playoff, too, narrowly missing a lengthy birdie try at the last, signing for a 6-under 65. The T2 finish moves him up to No. 16 on the money list and on the verge of potentially securing his TOUR card in the coming weeks.
“It’s definitely a really big week, especially with six events left in the regular season,” Cook said. “I came back (at the LECOM Health Challenge) last week and had a good week and had a good one this week. I didn’t really have a game plan of when I was going to take another break, but if this finish holds, I might be able to take another one before the end of the year and save up for the last one of the season and the Finals events.”
Brice Garnett grabs his first career win at Utah Championship