Maggert provides 'an incredible finish' for McCarron, end of PGA TOUR Champions season
November 12, 2019
By Randy Youngman, PGATOUR.COM
- November 12, 2019
Jeff Maggert's hole-out eagle approach in his 3rd playoff hole at Charles Schwab Cup
PHOENIX – As darkness descended on Phoenix Country Club late Sunday afternoon, the 2019 PGA TOUR Champions season ended suddenly, in a flash of fireworks.
A pitching wedge struck crisply and precisely by Jeff Maggert provided the pyrotechnics.
On the third hole of a playoff within the Schwab Cup Playoffs, Maggert holed out from the fairway – from 124 yards – to stun World Golf Hall of Famer Retief Goosen and capture the Schwab Cup Championship, his first Champions Tour title since 2015.
The “walk-off wedge” triggered two simultaneous celebrations. As Maggert triumphantly thrust his arms skyward and began jumping and running toward the green, Scott McCarron was back at the clubhouse hugging everyone in sight and repeatedly yelling, “Are you KIDDING me? Are you KIDDING me?"
That’s because the moment Maggert’s golf ball bounced into the cup, McCarron was crowned Schwab Cup champion in the season-long points race he had led since April. It was the first time in his 27-year career as a tour professional he had won $1 million (an annuity bonus for winning the Cup) in a single day – and this time, he was sipping red wine the moment he cashed in.
The closest he had ever come previously to winning $1 million, he recalled, was when he played Kevin Sutherland in the 36-hole final of the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa in 2002.
“I had a 10-footer to (force) extra holes,” he recalled Sunday. “I missed it, but I hit a great putt. But that was the only chance I really had for a million bucks, and I was not sipping wine at that time.” He grinned. “So this is really special.”
What made it even more special is that it almost didn’t happen – several times, in fact.
Because McCarron didn’t play well in any of the three Playoff events (tie for 14th in Virginia, tie for 43rd in Thousand Oaks and tie for 27th in Phoenix), he needed Maggert’s help to nudge him across the finish line. In essence, everyone in the field not named Goosen, Langer, Kelly and Montgomerie was McCarron’s best-ball partner over the weekend. If anybody other than those four had won the season-ending tournament, and if Kelly had finished worse than a tie for eighth, McCarron would finally hoist the Cup, based on the PGA TOUR Champions playoff system.
It was still nerve-wracking as Scott watched the points leaders finish, because Kelly put on a late run and finished in a tie for 10th, Langer got within two shots of Maggert after an ace on the 194-yard eighth hole before faltering and Goosen kept the pressure on Maggert all afternoon while playing in the group just ahead of the leader.
Every missed shot by Maggert magnified McCarron’s angst. But as Goosen crept closer, Maggert pulled off clutch shot after clutch shot. He rolled in a 40-footer for birdie on the par-3 13th and made a 25-footer for par from off the green on the par-3 15th.
Jeff Maggert's clutch par putt from the fringe at Charles Schwab Cup
Even so, Goosen birdied three of the final four holes in regulation, tying Maggert at 20 under on No. 17 and taking the lead at 21 under with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th. He actually had an 18-footer for eagle on the 72nd hole but admitted misreading it, giving Maggert a chance to force a playoff with a birdie on the final hole.
Maggert came through again after hooking his tee shot into the deep rough left and having to play a layup around a tree to get back in position. From 117 yards, he hit sand wedge to within 6 feet and coolly made the putt to force the playoff, celebrating with a demonstrative fist-pump.The odds were against Maggert – and, by extension, against McCarron – with the first two playoff holes on the 18th, favoring the extraordinarily long Goosen.
Didn’t matter. On the first playoff hole, Goosen had a 3-foot putt to win the tournament, the Schwab Cup and $1.44 million – but missed the cup to the left. Are you KIDDING me?
On the second playoff hole, Maggert had to attempt a risky 2-hybrid shot out of the left rough from 224 yards out because Goosen was within a 6-iron range of the green after his tee shot. But when Maggert smother-hooked his approach into the left rough, well short of the green, his ball struck a spectator’s leg and caromed back into the fairway. Are you KIDDING me?
With Goosen’s second shot just short of the green, giving himself an excellent chance for a chip-and-putt birdie, Maggert had to get up and down from 57 yards out – and go over a bunker – for a matching birdie. But he did. Are you KIDDING me?
Off they went to the short par-4 17th, where Goosen drove into a fairway bunker to open the door for Maggert, who found the middle of the fairway.
But then Goosen hit a spectacular bunker shot about 10 feet under the hole, flipping the pressure squarely back on Maggert.
His answer? A walk-off wedge!
McCarron wins the Schwab Cup!
Are you KIDDING me?
No, it’s no joke. McCarron deserved to win the Cup, according to veteran Paul Goydos, a five-time winner on PGA Tour Champions, including the Schwab Cup Championship in 2016. The system is designed to reward players for their performance over the whole season, not just the playoffs. That’s why the Tour ended the points reset before the playoffs and two years ago began awarding double points in the playoffs. It’s also why the tour went from three rounds to four rounds in the Schwab Cup Championship a year ago.
Goydos says no asterisk is needed. After all, McCarron won three times this season, and nobody else won more. He also led the tour with 14 top-10 finishes
“I think the system seems to be working quite well,” Goydos said. “This is the right (playoff) system for this tour. I think they have improved it to some extent, and the four rounds helps. . . . McCarron has had a good year. I would argue he has been the best player over time (this season).
“The issue isn’t how McCarron played in the playoffs. The guys near him haven’t played (well enough to catch him).”
Well, Goosen almost did, but Maggert’s hole-out decided everything.
“I think it’s good to recognize the players that have played well all year long,” McCarron said, posing with the Charles Schwab Cup trophy afterward. “I think this thing came right down to the end. Langer could have won it. Retief could have won it. Jerry Kelly could have won it.
“So I think this playoff system that we’ve got going right now is working really well. I like this playoff system. I thought it worked great, and I thought it was great for TV – just an incredible finish.”
It was good to the last dunk.
No offense to Retief, but if he had made that 3-footer to win on the first playoff hole, look at what we would have missed.
Scott McCarron's interview after winning season-long Charles Schwab Cup trophy