Joey Sindelar wins Wachovia Championship, beats Woods and Singh
Sometimes, there are things in life worth the wait.
It had been 13 years, eight months and 370 starts since Joey Sindelar last had to make a victory speech on the 18th green of a PGA Tour event, but there he was May 9, clearing his throat, trying to find just the right words after he was the last man standing on a wild final day of the Wachovia Championship.
“Pardon me – my mind is scrambled eggs right now,” said Sindelar, 46, trying to sort the events of the day after his two-hole playoff victory over second-year Tour pro Arron Oberholser. Sindelar, who jumped into contention with three late birdies in regulation to shoot 69 and get to 11-under 277, made two pars in overtime for the triumph, his seventh overall. Oberholser, 29, was in high school the last time Sindelar won.
“My oldest son, he was a couple of months old,” said Sindelar, describing his last victory, the 1990 Hardee’s Golf Classic. “I won in the summer, and they (his sons) think those trophies in my case are replicas, things I picked up in a local sporting goods store to fool them. Now we have a real one to show them.”
He certainly does. In only its second year, the Wachovia and its major-caliber golf course, Quail Hollow, has emerged as one of the PGA Tour’s can’t-miss stops, attracting one of the strongest fields of the year. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh were there, and both made their presence known on Sunday. But in the end, it was the smiling, affable veteran from Horseheads, N.Y., who cashed in on the million-dollar payday, earning more money in a single afternoon than he had made in any of his 20 seasons on Tour.
Afterward, he didn’t have any idea how much he’d won.
“One million, eight thousand?” Sindelar repeated once he was told. “That’s wild. I really want to know what my parents are thinking right now. My dad delivered mail for 35 years and my mom drove a school bus. That’s a stupid amount of money, no matter what you do.”
Despite Sunday runs by Jeff Maggert, Carlos Franco, Woods and Singh, the tournament seemed to be firmly in Oberholser’s grasp when he smashed 5-wood onto the green at the 566-yard 15th hole and rolled in the eagle putt to get to 13 under. But Oberholser has struggled on Sundays this season – he ranked 173rd in final-round scoring average – and he’d have his share of difficulty over Wachovia’s demanding finishing stretch, arguably one of the most arduous the Tour faces all season.
He hit a spectator with a hooked drive at the par-4 16th hole, the ball bouncing under a bush, and he eventually had to make a good up-and-down for bogey; at the 17th he “chunked” a 3-iron that bounded off the bank left of the green and seemed destined to find water, yet the ball somehow stayed up. He nearly fell into the lake taking his stance, then chipped 8 feet past en route to another bogey. Only a Houdini-like escape with a hooked 8-iron and manufactured swing from the right trees at No. 18 led to par and a round of 72 that kept him around for a playoff.
Earlier this season, Oberholser played in the final pairing at the AT&T Pebble Beach, tied for the lead, but got caught up in playing against his opponent and failed miserably, stumbling to a final-day 76. The man he tried to go toe-to-toe with that day was Vijay Singh, and Singh schooled him. To Oberholser’s credit, he said he learned a lesson, and Sunday at Wachovia he stayed focused on the golf course, not all that was happening around him.
Good thing. There was a lot going on.
Woods, who was driving the ball all over the place, practically willed his way into contention, making three birdies in a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round to get to 9 under and get his name in the mix. He piped a 5-iron at the flag at the 217-yard 17th to get one last birdie, but from 143 yards out at the finishing hole he spun a pitching wedge off the front of the green, and needed to hole a chip to get to the magic number, 11 under. He nearly did, but missed by inches, and settled for a third-place tie (with Franco) in a week where he found only 43 percent of his fairways off the tee.
“The key is I went out there and I got to double-digits (under par),” said Woods (68-278). “I hung in there, and I gave myself a chance.”
Singh, coming off back-to-back victories in Houston and New Orleans, made eagle at 15 to get to 10 under, then slipped back with a bogey-double bogey finish, settling for a tie for 10th.
Instead, the day belonged to Sindelar, who came out on Tour long before the days of Tiger, Vijay, Phil and Company. Victory means job security through 2006, which almost takes him to the Champions Tour. He hopes he isn’t finished collecting trophies. Sunday was too much fun.
“I never lost faith,” he said. “I never gave up. This is too good of a thing, and I don’t have any other skills. So I had to keep plugging.”
Make room in the trophy case.