Foley wins season-opening Panama Claro Championship

February 24, 2013

By Joe Chemycz, Tour staff

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Kevin Foley rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to break free of Mathew Goggin and win the Panama Claro Championship for his first career title. Foley’s fourth birdie of the day was good for a 3-under 67 at the always-difficult Panama Golf Club put him at 8-under 272 and one in front of Goggin, the 54-hole leader, who needed a birdie at the 18th to force a playoff.

Goggin’s second shot at the 465-yard hole came up a yard short and settled into a greenside bunker. When he failed to hole it from the sand, the champions’ trophy and a check for $108,000 went to Foley, a 25-year old, second-year pro from New Jersey.

“It you had told me a year ago that I’d be standing here I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” said the Tour’s first champion of the 2013 season. “I’d take it, but I wouldn’t believe it. A lot has happened in a year.”

Foley had no status on any tour to begin the 2012 season but fought through Monday qualifiers and top-25 finishes and earned full status to begin the year in Central America.

Georgia’s Scott Brown (66) was alone in third place, two back. Scott Dunlap (68), Len Mattiace (69) and Roland Thatcher (71) shared fourth place at 4-under 276.

“I knew it was going to be a shootout today because there were a bunch of guys lined up to start the day,” said Foley, who entered Sunday 5-under and tied for second, two back of Goggin, the 2010 champion. “It wasn’t the windiest day but with tough pin positions and the course getting firmer, I knew I just had to play smart and steady all day.”

The former Penn State Nittany Lion followed his game plan perfectly, with only one bogey and several solid par-saving putts, to claim the win.

Goggin, on the other hand, battled through a less-than-perfect day but managed to shoot an even-par 70 despite a bogey, a double and a triple.

“I played really poorly for 13 holes,” said the 38-year old Scottsdale, Ariz. resident. “I wasn’t playing particularly well but I was hanging in there. You’re just waiting for one or two holes or one or two shots to get you going and then instead of a good one you have the absolute worst one.”

Goggin bounced back from a double-bogey at No. 3 with three birdies on his next five hole to regain the lead from Foley and Thatcher. He was up one when he snap-hooked a tee shot into the water at the 502-yard, 11th hole and put a seven on his scorecard.

“Just a bad swing,” he said. “I hadn’t hit one like that all week.”

Still, he wasn’t out of it. Nobody really is on Sunday in Panama when the wind-blown course plays hard and fast and the leaders usually struggle to keep moving forward.

“I told my caddie after that triple that it wasn’t over,” said Goggin. “I figured it was going to be whoever played the last seven holes the best.

Foley gained the lead with a birdie at No. 15 but gave it back with a three-putt bogey from 75 feet on the next hole. Goggin closed to within one at birdies on 14 and 15.

“Coming down the last two holes I knew I would rather pick one up and and force him to tie instead of him making a birdie to beat me,” said Foley, who hit 9-iron from 147 yards. “I knew it was a good look from behind the hole. It was perfect and dropped it in the top-left side of the cup. That was sweet.”

Fourth- Round Notes & Quotes:

• Sunday weather: mostly sunny, wind N 10-20 mph and a high of 93.

• Morgan Hoffmann withdrew prior to the start of the round due to a stomach illness.

• Kevin Foley joined the Tour in 2012 after earning Special Temporary Membership status. Foley was a Monday qualifier at the South Georgia Classic and parlayed a T7 finish into a start the following week, where he finished T7 at the Stadion Classic at UGA. A solo fifth-place effort at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational had a big enough payday for him to move into the membership category. He finished the year by making 10 cuts in 16 starts and wound up No. 52 on the final money list, good for fully-exempt status in 2013.

• Scott Brown shot a 4-under 66 to wind up at 6-under 274 and solo third. Brown played on the PGA TOUR in 2012 and made eight cuts in 24 starts but did have three top-10 finishes, including T5s at the Puerto Rico Open and the True South Championship.

“For some reason I always feel more comfortable on the weekend. I’ve had a little success when I get into contention,” said Brown. “I guess I thrive off that a little.”

• Kevin Foley becomes the fourth player in tournament history to make this win his first career title:
      2013  Kevin Foley
      2012  Edward Loar
      2007  Miguel Carballo
      2004  Jimmy Walker

• Texan Jordan Speith posted a 4-under 66 to move up the final leaderboard and finish T7, his first career top-10. Speith, 19, turned professional in December 2012 after a year and a half at the University of Texas, where he helped the Longhorns to the NCAA Championship in his freshman season.

Spieth has played in 10 PGA TOUR events and made the cut in six. His best finish came in his initial start – a T16 at the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship. This was only his second start on the Tour – T44 at the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational.

With his top-25 effort this week, Spieth gains a berth in next week’s Colombia Championship at the Bogota Country Club.

• Fran Quinn owns the tournament’s 72-hole record. He posted scores of 68-66-62-71 for a 15-under 265 total.

• Scott Dunlap (68/276) fell short in his bid to win this week and become the oldest winner in Tour history. Dunlap, 49, would have been a couple months older than Kirk Triplett, when he won the 2011 News Sentinel Open.

• Players who were bogey-free in the fourth round:
      66 – Jordan Spieth, Joe Durant, Randall Hutchison, Scott Brown

• Best rounds of the day:
      66 – Jordan Spieth

• Vaughn Taylor (T9) led the tournament with 19 birdies.

• Taking a look at how the leader’s score after 54 holes differed from the winner’s score over the years –  Expectations would be that scores got lower from R3 to R4, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Four times in 10 years the score has actually gone in reverse (see bold items) and twice it stayed the same:

Year 54-hole leader Winning total Change
2004 6-under 7-under +1
2005 8-under 8-under none
2006 10-under 11-under +1
2007 6-under 6-under none
2008 6-under 3-under -3
2009 6-under 7-under +1
2010 16-under 15-under -1
2011 13-under 11-under -2
2012 8-under 4-under +4
2013 7-under 8-under +1

• Course statistics for the week:

Front (35) Back (35) Total (70)
Round 1 35.492 35.750 71.242
Round 2 35.364 35.947 71.311
Round 3 36.188 35.469 71.656
Round 4 34.825 35.587 70.413
Cumulative 35.455 35.744 71.199

• In the previous nine years of the tournament, only seven players have managed to post four straight rounds in the 60’s. This week, nobody was able to join that group:

2005 Chris Tidland 69-69-69-69 -- 276 T7
2009 Vance Veazey 67-69-68-69 -- 272 Won
2010 Brian Smock 66-67-67-67 -- 267 2nd

Kevin Chappell 67-69-69-67 -- 272 T4

Shaun Micheel 69-69-67-69 -- 274 T16
2011 Mathew Giggin 68-66-67-68 -- 269 Won

Mark Anderson 69-69-68-69 -- 275 T13

• The Tour will head to South America next week for the Colombia Championship at Bogota Country Club Feb. 28-Mar. 3. Last year, Skip Kendall rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win by one stroke over Andres Gonzales and Andrew Svoboda and collect his third career title. Kendall fired an even-par 71 on Sunday to finish at 10-under 274. Next week’s winner will earn $126,000 from the $700,000 purse.