With leader Jay Haas holding a six-shot lead entering the final round, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship could have turned into a rout.
Even Tom Watson thought so.
Before the final round Oct. 30, the Senior British Open champion told his daughter Meg that Haas was “probably going to run away” with the title.
But that’s why they play 72 holes.
Watson, who was tied for second with four others at 8 under, went out and posted a sizzling final-round 8-under 64 to capture his third Charles Schwab Cup Championship in the Champions Tour’s season-ending event at Sonoma Golf Club.
Watson finished at 16-under 272, one better than Haas. Watson, who won for the second time in 2005 and eighth time on the Champions Tour, won $440,000.
Watson, the winner of 39 PGA Tour titles, also claimed the Charles Schwab Cup points race and a $1 million annuity. In the seasonlong points race, Watson edged Dana Quigley by 247 points. Watson earned triple points (1,320) with his Sonoma victory to pass Quigley, who led the standings for 17 weeks.
“I really didn’t expect to win. I didn’t expect to make 10 birdies like I did,” said Watson, who also capped the 2000 and 2002 seasons with a victory.
Haas, going for his third victory in four weeks, closed with a 71 and was a stroke back at 15 under. He said his poor putting Sunday likely cost him the title.
“I wasn’t quite as sharp overall,” said Haas, who won the Greater Hickory Classic Oct. 9 and the SBC Championship Oct. 23 for his first triumphs on the over-50 circuit. “The greens seemed to pick up speed overnight.”
Rain softened the rough, but the sun baked the greens and kept them quick through the weekend.
Quigley, the tour’s leading money winner who played in the final pairing with Haas, tried to put the pressure on early. Also starting six stokes back, Quigley opened with three consecutive birdies, but gave strokes back with bogeys at Nos. 6 and 8 and fell off the pace.
“That was just a phenomenal round of golf (Watson) played today,” Quigley said. “Jay played a nice round of golf also. You know with a six-shot lead, you’re not supposed to go out there and charge, charge, charge. Once Watson got going, it’s tough to stop that guy.”
Haas struggled with his putting early and made the turn in even par after a birdie and a bogey on the front nine. He made consecutive birdies to open the back nine, despite hooking his drive at the 11th. He hit his second shot pin-high to set up a short birdie putt. He also hooked his tee shot at No. 12 and made another bogey as his lead dropped to a stroke.
He scrambled the rest of the way and offset a bogey at No. 14 with a birdie at the 16th.
“That whole stretch put some heat on my iron game,” Haas said.
As Haas struggled, Watson made his move with birdies at Nos. 8, 9, 11 and 12, closing within two shots of the lead.
After hitting his second shot at the par-5 13th into a bunker short of the green, Watson left his third shot well short and chipped to 11 feet before saving par.
Watson made birdie at the 18th, prompting a roar from the crowd.
Haas had a chance to send the tournament into a playoff, but left an 18-foot birdie putt at the 18th about 7 inches short.
“That’s what I’m out here to do. Compete and win,” Watson said. “It makes the winter months a whole lot better.”
– Staff and wire reports