Stiles captures second News Sentinel Open win

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Darron Stiles won his fifth title on the Tour on Sunday.
August 26, 2012
Royce Thompson, Staff

FARRAGUT, Tenn. -- Darron Stiles held off a host of competitors in the final round at Fox Den Country Club. His 4-under 67 put him at 18-under par 266, good enough to take home the trophy at the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot.


Scott Gardiner, D.J. Brigman and Nicholas Thompson finished in a tie for second place at 17-under 267.

Erik Flores finished alone in fifth at 16-under 268 while four players shared sixth place at 15-under 269. Those players are Brice Garnett, two-time major champion, John Daly, Scott Dunlap and Jeff Gove.

Stiles got off to a shaky start after missing a short putt for par on his first hole of the day. It was an improbable make on the next hole though that was crucial in allowing him to get back in his comfort zone.

"The key was on number two making a 30-footer for birdie," the all-time leading money-earner on the Tour pointed out. "That got me settled back down and allowed me to just let my ball striking take over."

With a birdie at the par-5 fifth, the Florida Southern University alum felt that he still had a chance to win. And when he walked by a leaderboard on the way to 10 tee, he knew that he was still in it.

"I saw Scotty (Scott Gardiner) in at 17-under," the Florida native explained. "I knew that if I just stuck to my game plan, that if I'm in or close to the lead heading into the back nine that I had a shot at it."

The turning point of the round came with an unlikely chip-in for eagle on the par-5 10th. That put the 27-year touring pro at 17-under and tied for the lead. And once he made birdie on 14 to take the outright lead, Stiles was in the driver seat and in control of the tournament.

Coming into 18 with a one-shot lead, Stiles had a familiar feeling. It was in 2002, the last time he won this tournament, that he had a one-stroke lead with one to play. Without a second thought he pulled the driver from the bag and piped it straight down the middle of the fairway.

"The game plan was to stay aggressive all day and don't deviate from that," the 39-year-old noted. "Today was eerily similar to Sunday 10 years ago, in that I had a one-stroke lead with one to play."

With a wedge in hand, Stiles hit the center of the green and two putts later became a two-time News Sentinel Open champion. The father-of-two believes his win today is a jumping off point for the rest of the season, for it was only a few months ago that he fell short at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.

"I let one slip away in Greeneville by three-putting the last hole," Stiles admitted. "This is the spring board for the rest of the year. Now that I got a win, I can get another one."

With this victory the Pinehurst Resort member moves into the eighth spot on the money list and comes that much closer to locking up his PGA TOUR card for 2013. So what does Stiles feel this win will do for him the rest of this year?

"It will free me up for the rest of the year," the News Sentinel Open champion said with a smile. "I can be more aggressive. I can get up to Pittsburgh and just go for it. Why not win two in a row?"

Final-Round Notes

• D.J. Brigman birdied 17 and 18 after a bogey on 16 to take a share of second place. He attributes his wedge game to his low score and overall good play.

"I proud of myself for making birdie on 17 and 18, to give myself a chance," Brigman said with a smile. "I have been working on my wedge game on the wedge range at the University of New Mexico, I told myself trust all the hard work you've been doing and you will be fine."

• Nicholas Thompson found plenty of positives to talk about after his final round 7-under 67. Thompson believes that his ball striking and his putting are the reasons why he has plenty to be excited about the rest of the season.

"I've made I think 20 birdies and an eagle this week," the 29-year-old noted. "I've played really good this year, just my putter has not clicked, but it clicked on the back nine today."

The tie for second propelled him to 24th on the money list and the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket believes that it can only get better as the season comes down to the final stretch.

"I should get that yellow bib now," the Florida resident pointed out. "And hopefully I won't relinquish it."

• Scott Gardiner tied the tournament course record, as it relates to par, with a bogey-free 9-under 62. Gardiner, who has never played a PGA TOUR event, moves into 17th place on the money list.

• Six of the top-10 Tour money winners are in the field this week. The following players made the cut:

Casey Wittenberg (#2) Lee Williams (#7)

Player Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Pos
Darron Stiles (2002) 67 66 66 67 1
Jeff Gove (1999) 68 67 69 65 T6
Kevin Johnson(2009) 71 76 CUT

• Three past champions are in the field this week:

Player Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Pos
Phillip Pettit Jr. 71 68 69 73 T66
Wes Roach 68 69 71 75 T71
Casey Wittenberg 63 72 69 66 T10
B.J. Staten 68 70 64 70 T14
Garrett Willis 69 72 CUT
Doug Barron 71 73 CUT
Chase Carroll 73 74 CUT
Luke List 72 70 CUT
Scott Moran 70 75 CUT
Audie Johnson 75 73 CUT

• There are 10 players with ties to Tennessee in the field this week:

• Players who were bogey-free in the final round:

62- Scott Gardiner 64- Kevin Kisner 66- Casey Wittenberg 68- Tim Wilkinson 69- Doug LaBelle II

Fox Den CC
Round Front 9 (35) Back 9 (36) Total (71)
R1 35.346 34.865 70.212
R2 34.948 35.252 70.200
R3 34.707 34.747 69.453
R4 34.280 34.973 69.253

• Scoring averages for the week:

•The next stop on the Tour is the Mylan Classic at Southpointe Golf Club in Canonsburg, Pa. August 27 -- September 2.