2006: Wadkins hangs tough

Dearborn, Mich.

There’s something with majors and the 18th hole this year.

Bobby Wadkins made a 12-foot putt for double bogey on the final hole at the TPC of Michigan July 16 and he still won the Ford Senior Players Championship.

It was only a month ago that Phil Mickelson’s double bogey on No. 18 at Winged Foot Golf Club cost him a chance to win the U.S. Open. But Jim Thorpe’s three-putt bogeyon the final hole at the TPC of Michigan on Sunday allowed Wadkins to escape a similar fate.

“Anyone who says they aren’t feeling nerves at that state of the game is telling a lie,” said Wadkins, who shot a 4-under 68 Sunday and finished with a14-under 274. “The tournament should have been over, and I almost gave it away.”

Wadkins overcame not only a wild finish on the 18th, but also a four-stroke deficit and 95-degree heat to claim his third Champions Tour victory.

He won in his first start on the over-50 tour in 2001 at the Lightpath Long Island Classic. Wadkins, 54, added his second win at the Boeing Championship in May.

His previous best finish at a Champions Tour major was second in the Senior PGA in 2002 and 2003.

Wadkins made five consecutive birdies (Nos. 11-15) on the back nine to charge past Thorpe and third-round leader Loren Roberts, whose double bogeys on Nos. 11 and 14 dropped him down the leaderboard. He tied for third.

On the par-4 18th, Wadkins drove it left into a marsh and had to take a drop. His third shot fell into a greenside bunker. His blast from the bunker flew over the green and hit a spectator on the hill. “I haven’t hit a bunker shot like that since I was 15,” he said. “Hopefully, I won’t hit another one for another 40 years.”

His fifth shot from the rough – which he said was his toughest of the weekend – nearly went in the hole, but had too much pace. Wadkins then holed a 12-footer for double bogey to seal the win.

Roberts, who was second on the money list leading up to the Senior Players, played the front nine at 2 under, but double bogeys at Nos. 11 and 14 dropped him down the leaderboard. He finished with a 74 on Sunday and was 12 under.

Meanwhile, Wadkins drove off with a Ford Mustang GT and a date next May at the PGA Tour’s Players Championship at Sawgrass, a winner’s perk that was added recently.

Farewell Ford: After 16 years at the TPC of Michigan, the Ford Senior Players will move to Baltimore next October.

Constellation Energy will sponsor the Senior Players Championship for at least the next five years at Baltimore Country Club’s East Course.

“Everyone’s pretty sad,” said Tom Clark, the tournament’s executive director. “When we learned it wasn’t coming back, it was a shock, but without a sponsor there’s not much you can do.”

Peter Jacobsen, who won here last year, said he didn’t want to see the event leave.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “The history of golf in Detroit is long and storied, and I’d like to see the tournament come back here. I know the PGA (Tour) has not given up on this market.”

Fred Funk, who has played only two Champions Tour events, is looking forward to the Maryland move.

“Growing up in the Maryland area there were two clubs really known in the state, Congressional (in Bethesda) and Baltimore Country Club,” Funk said.

Short shots: Michelle Wie wasn’t the only golfer to withdraw from a tournament because of heat exhaustion. Jim Colbert WD’d on the 13th hole Sunday. Colbert, 65, was treated with intravenous fluids at the course. He was 4 over when he pulled out. . . . Don Pooley traded two putters and a driver for the putter of his pro-am partner Jeff Larkin, a 16-year-old from Troy, Mich. “We had a scramble format,” Pooley told the Detroit Free Press, “so I putted with the putter and said, ‘You mind if I borrow this this week?’ He said, ‘Sure. You can have it.’ ” Pooley rolled his way to a tie for the 36-hole lead. He eventually had 113 putts (T-14) and tied for 11th. . . . Larry Nelson (6-iron,171 yards, eight hole) and Des Smyth (6-iron,191 yards, fourth hole) had holes-in-one Saturday. Smyth’s tie for third was his best finish of the year and best since losing a playoff to Tom Watson at last year’s Senior British Open. . . . Chi Chi Rodriguez’s first-round 76 marked the first time this year he cracked 80.

– Staff and wire reports

On the tee

Next up: Senior British Open, July 27-30, Westin Turnberry Resort (Ailsa Course), Ayrshire, Scotland.

Defending champion: Tom Watson.

The buzz: It’s the third Champions major in a row. The fifth and final major is in August at the Jeld-Wen Tradition.

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