Wheatcroft wins Melwood by record-setting 12 strokes

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With this win, Steve Wheatcroft moved to second place on the Tour's money list.
June 05, 2011
Joe Chemycz, Nationwide Tour staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It wasn't even close. Steve Wheatcroft eagled the final hole to polish off his first career win in record-setting fashion at the Melwood Prince George's County Open. The 33-year old Indiana University grad shot a final round 7-under 64 and lapped the field by a Nationwide Tour-record 12 strokes.

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Wheatcroft finished at 29-under par and splattered his name all over the record book while picking up a first-place check for $108,000, which moved him from No. 32 to No. 2 on the season money list.

"I'm absolutely over-the-top ecstatic. I've been out here for five years and never won," he said. "I wanted to make that next step and I wanted to do it in a big way."

It wasn't big, it was huge. The list of his accomplishments would take several pages but perhaps the most impressive was his score of 255, the lowest 72-hole total in the 22-year history of the Nationwide Tour. The old mark of 258 was set by Chris Smith at the 1997 Omaha Classic and later matched by Daniel Chopra at the 2004 Henrico County Open.

His margin of victory is also the largest in Tour history, topping Smith's 11-stroke win 14 years ago and Marc Leishmann's 11-shot margin at the 2008 WNB Golf Classic.

"I had the pedal to the floor all day," said Wheatcroft. "I didn't' want anybody thinking they had a chance today."

Nobody had much of a chance the last three days.

The Pennsylvania native moved to the front with his 10-under 61 in the second round and never turned around to see who was following. He set Tour records for the largest 36-hole lead (seven) and the largest 54-hole lead (eight) before slamming the door in Sunday's finale.

"Friday was one of those crazy days and I just tried not to look back," he said.

Ryan Armour posted a 9-under 62 to finish at 17-under par and grab a share of second place with Jon Mills (65). Nicholas Thompson (69) ended the week at 16-under to take solo fourth. Thompson had the best seat in the house Sunday, playing alongside Wheatcroft.

"He played phenomenal," said Thompson. "There was no catching him."

Wheatcroft eased into the day but left little doubt that he was headed to his first win when he rolled in birdies at Nos. 4, 6 and 8.

"Everybody behind me had nothing to lose and I knew they were going to be firing at pins. They were going to go as low as they can," he said of his challengers. "The goal was to try and birdie as many as I could and get as far ahead as I could."

Wheatcroft's bandwagon started slowly but began to build as the record-setting day wore on.

"Making a birdie I look up and see 'Terrible Towels' waving," said the Pittsburgh area native. "I hear everyone cheering and hear voices I recognize. My family was here, my girlfriend was here, my friends were here. We probably had 25-30 with us and we picked up a few more (fans) as we went along."

His lead was in double digits at the turn and the only questions left to be answered would be about the final numbers.

"The first time I felt really safe was on 14 green. I probably had 18 feet left for par," he said. "That was a huge boost for me. Fourteen and 15 are nasty holes if you don't get it in play and things can change. You give one or two back and it shrinks and all of a sudden everyone's thinking they have a shot."

They were wrong. Wheatcroft kept the pressure and closed with a 5-foot birdie at No. 15, two-putted for birdie from 40 feet at No. 16 and then finished with a flourish.

"I wanted to go out with a bang," he said. "I'm kind of a TV ham and the 18th green on Sunday is about as good as you're going to get."

Wheatcroft rolled in the eagle from 20 feet to finish off the week but the celebration will have to wait. He will join fellow pros and amateurs on Monday as they try to qualify for the U.S. Open, which will be played about 30 minutes away at Congressional Country Club.

"I'll delay it one more day," he said. "The U.S. Open is my biggest tournament. It's my dream tournament. I'm pretty sure Monday night will be a big one."

The celebration, like everything else, will pale in comparison to all that he accomplished over the past four days.

Fourth-Round Notes

Ryan Armour made a huge move today with a 9-under 62 that vaulted him to 17-under for the week and a T2. Armour was even par through his first six holes today before chipping in for eagle at the par-5, 7th.

"It three-hopped into the hole and it just ignited stuff," said Armour, who felt the momentum change. "All sports are a game of momentum. People say you try to keep an even keel on the golf course but you can feel the ebb and flows of everything going on. I hit it solid on the back and gave myself every opportunity to make birdies on every hole out there."

This was Armour's best finish since he tied for second at the 2005 Jacob's Creek Open Championship in Australia.

Erik Compton all but owned the par-4, 8th hole this week. Compton played the 346-yard, dogleg left at 6-under par for four days. He eagled the hole each of the first two days and then birdied it twice on the weekend.

Matt Davidson continued his solid season with his fourth top-10 finish. Davidson has made the cut in five of seven starts and has finished in the top-25 in each of those five events. The Furman University fired a 5-under 66 today and finished T9. In his last five starts he has gone T9, T10, T5, m/c and T9. Davidson moved from No. 19 to No. 9 on the money list.

Player Old rank New rank
1. Steve Wheatcroft No. 32 No. 2
2. Ryan Armour No. 42 No. 13
2. Jon Mills No. 66 No. 16
4. Nicholas Thompson No. 93 No. 37
5. J.J. Killeen No. 47 No. 29
6. Michael Thompson No. 195 No. 66
7. James Sacheck No. 132 No. 62
7. Gary Christian No. 44 No. 32
9. Matt Davidson No. 19 No. 15
9. Greg Owen No. 60 No. 38

• All of the players who finished in the top-10 this week made sizeable jumps on the money list:

• Wheatcroft put his name in several places in the Nationwide Tour record book this week:

-- He became the 19th player in Tour history to shoot 60 or better in a single round with his second-round 60

-- He became the 16th player in Tour history to shoot 60 in a single round with his second-round 60

-- He tied the fourth-lowest opening 36-hole score in Tour history with his 126 total (66-60)

-- He tied the seventh-lowest 36-hole score (consecutive rounds) in Tour history with his 126 total, rounds 1-2

Player Putts Tournament Round
Mike Brisky 18 putts 2003 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open Round 1
Steven Bowditch 18 putts 2010 Soboba Golf Classic Round 3
Patrick Burke 19 putts 2000 Dayton Open Round 2
Joey Guillon 19 putts 2000 Wichita Open Round 3
Steve Wheatcroft 19 putts 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open Round 2

-- He tied the third-lowest mark for fewest putts in a single round with 19 during the second round

Player Tournament Scores Par Final result
Joe Durant 1996 Shreveport Open 66-65-74-73278 (-10) 2nd by 1 stroke
David Sutherland 2001 Utah Championship 63-64-73-72272 (-16) Won by 1
D.A. Points 2004 Pete Dye West Virginiai Classic 65-62-68-70265 (-23) Won by 5
Kevin Na 2006 Mark Christopher Charity Classic 62-66-71-69268 (-16) Won by 3
Steve Wheatcroft 2011 Melwood Prince George's 66-60-65-64255 (-29) Won by 12

-- His seven-stroke lead was the largest 36-hole lead in Tour history. The previous best was six strokes by Joe Durant, David Sutherland, D.A. Points and Kevin Na:

Player Tournament Scores Par Final result
Greg Kraft 2005 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic 65-64-68-70267 (-17) won by 2
Parker McLachlin 2007 Nat'l Mining Assoc. Pete Dye Cl. 63-68-68-77276 (-12) T4 -- 3 shots back
Steve Wheatcroft 2011 Melwood Prince George's 66-60-65-64 (-29) won by 12

-- His eight-stroke lead was the largest 54-hole lead in Tour history. The previous best was seven strokes by Greg Kraft and Parker McLachlin:

Score Player Tournament
190 (65-61-64) David Branshaw 2002 Gila River Golf Classic
191 (64-62-65) Scott Piercy 2008 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open
191 (66-60-65) Steve Wheatcroft 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open

-- His 191 total matched the second lowest opening-54 score in Tour history:

Score Player Event Rounds
124 (61-63) Kevin Chappell 2010 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic (R1-2)
125 (60-65) Jeff Freeman 2001 Fort Smith Classic (R3-4)
125 (64-61) Jason Gore 2002 Gila River Golf Classic (R1-2)
125 (61-64) David Branshaw 2002 Gila River Golf Classic (R1-2)
125 (62-63) Jason Day 2007 Cox Classic (R3-4)
125 (61-64) Webb Simpson 2008 Chattanooga Classic (R1-2)
125 (60-65) Steve Wheatcroft 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open (R2-3)

-- His 125 total in rounds 2 and 3 (60-65) tied the second lowest 36 hole total for consecutive rounds in Tour history:

-- His 96 total putts was one shy of the Tour's all-time best of 95 set by Grant Waite at the 2003 Miccosukee Championship.

Score Player/Course/Tournament
255 (66-60-65-64) Steve Wheatcroft, University of Maryland Golf Course (par 71), College Park, MD in winning the 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open (29-under par)
258 (63-65-64-66) Chris Smith, The Champions Club (par 71), Omaha, NE, in winning the 1997 Omaha Classic (26-under par)
258 (65-63-65-65) Daniel Chopra, The Dominion Club (par 72), Glen Allen, VA in winning the 2004 Henrico County Open (30-under par)
260 (65-68-62-65) Mark Hensby, Hardscrabble CC (par 70), Fort Smith, AR, in winning the 1998 Fort Smith Classic (20-under par)
260 (64-63-68-65) Roland Thatcher, Champions Run (par 71), Omaha, NE, in winning the 2007 Cox Classic (24-under par)

-- His winning score of 255 broke the Tour record by three strokes for the lowest 72-hole total.

Largest winning margin
Lead Player/Tournament
12 strokes Steve Wheatcroft, 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open
11 strokes Chris Smith, 1997 Omaha Classic
11 strokes Marc Leishman, 2008 WNB Classic
8 strokes Chris Nallen, 2004 Gila River Golf Classic

-- His 12-stroke win also set a new mark for the largest margin of victory in Tour history:

Birdies Player Tournament
31 Craig Lile 2003 Cox Classic
31 Steve Wheatcroft 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open

• His 31 birdies tied the Tour record for most birdies made in a single tournament:

Most strokes under par (72 holes)
30 Daniel Chopra in winning the 2004 Henrico County Open (258)
29 Steve Wheatcroft in winning the 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open (255)
27 Doug LaBelle II in winning the 2006 Price Cutter Charity Championship (261)
27 Tommy Gainey in winning the 2010 Chiquita Classic (261)

• His finishing score of 29-under par is the second-best in Tour history:

• Bogey-free rounds this week:

R1 -- Stephen Gangluff (70) R2 -- Steve Wheatcroft (60) , Dicky Pride (70), Scott Dunlap (70), Adam Bland (70) R3 -- Gary Christian (62), Wil Wilcox (66), Tyrone Van Aswegen R4 -- Darren Angel (67), Bradley Iles (66), Gary Christian (68), Jim Carter (66)

  Front 9 Back 9 Total Cumulative
R1 36.058 35.135 71.194 --
R2 36.370 34.994 71.364 71.278
R3 35.367 34.433 69.800 71.058
R4 34.950 34.133 69.083 70.765

• Scoring Averages for the week:

Player Tournament 59 or 60 Next round Tourney finish
Notah Begay 1998 Dominion Open 59 in R2 74 in R3 T6
Doug Dunakey 1998 Miami Valley Open 59 in R2 67 in R3 T2
Jason Gore 2005 Cox Classic 59 in R2 68 in R3 Won in playoff
Jeff Woodland 1991 Dakota Dunes Open 60 in R3 -- Won
Clark Dennis 1997 St. Louis Golf Classic 60 in R3 -- 3rd
Jimmy Green 1998 Carolina Classic 60 in R1 68 in R3 2nd
Matthew Lane 1998 Greensboro Open 60 in R2 75 in R3 T18
Jeff Freeman 2001 Fort Smith Classic 60 in R3 65 in R4 P2
Craig Lile 2003 Omaha Classic 60 in R2 69 in R3 2nd
Tyler Williamson 2004 Price Cutter Charity Ch. 60 in R4 -- T3
Chris Nallen 2004 Gila River Golf Classic 60 in R1 66 in R2 Won
Chris Couch 2005 Rheem Classic 60 in R4 -- Won
Jon Mills 2005 Cox Classic 60 in R2 71 in R3 T3
Brenden Pappas 2007 Chitimacha Louisiana O. 60 in R1 74 in R2 T12
Chris Thompson 2007 Cox Classic 60 in R1 71 in R2 T8
Michael Letzig 2007 NWT Championship 60 in R1 66 in R2 2nd
Arjun Atwal 2008 Chattanooga Classic 60 in R2 66 in R3 Won in playoff
Travis Hampshire 2011 BMW Charity Pro-Am 60 in R2 68 in R3 T4
Steve Wheatcroft 2011 Melwood PGC Open 60 in R2 65 in R3 Won by 12

• Here is how the 19 players who have posted a 59 or 60 in Nationwide Tour history have followed up their low scores and how they finished in the tournament:

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