RENO, Nev. — Scott Piercy could only think of one word when he rolled in a 7-foot putt for par on the final hole at the Reno-Tahoe Open to claim his first victory on the PGA Tour.
“Finally,” Piercy said Sunday after squandering a three-stroke lead then dodging more trouble down the stretch to beat Pat Perez by one stroke at Montreux Golf & Country Club on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.
“It kind of feels like I got the monkey off the back,” said the 32-year-old Las Vegas native whose best previous finish in his three years on tour was a tie for sixth at the Honda Classic in 2009.
“I’ve been in the final group five times I think and didn’t close the deal,” he said. “I always thought I could do it and it was just a matter of doing it. Now I did it … A big sigh of relief.”
His final round of 2-under 70 to finish at 15-under 273 didn’t come without some drama.
A day after setting the course record with a 61, he had to scramble his way around the 7,472-yard mountain layout to claim the $540,000 winner’s check.
Piercy picked up where he left off on Saturday with a birdie on the first hole and closed out the front nine where he shot an 8-under 28 the day before with two more birdies to make the turn with a three-stroke lead at 16-under.
He still led by three through No. 11, but Perez birdied the par-4 12th and par-5 13th. Piercy then bogeyed the 365-yard, par-4 14th when he tried to drive the green, hit a cart path and bounced 30 yards left.
Tied with two holes to go, Perez gave a stroke back with a bogey the par-4 17th, missing an 8-footer for par. Piercy hit his drive 387 yards on the 616-yard downhill closing hole but it ran right into the sage brush.
After helping his playing partner Josh Teater look for his errant drive in sage on the other side of the fairway for more than five minutes, Piercy knocked his own ball out safely then pitched onto the green about 30 feet from the pin.
Needing only a 2-putt to win, he sent his first attempt 7 feet past the hole before wobbling in the winner.
“Yeah, 30 feet and 2-putting is not as easy as it looks sometimes,” said Piercy, who started the week ranked 142nd on the money list with $365,162 but now will see his earnings approach $1 million for the second time.
“I had one little hiccup and just played solid from there,” he said about the lone bogey. “Coming down the stretch, you know, making pars is sometimes as good as making birdies.”
The first native Nevadan to win the 13-year-old tourney also locked up a spot next week’s PGA Championship.
“We had vacation planned next week. Now I’ve got to cancel,” he joked afterwards.
Perez shot a 68 to finish at 274, his third runner-up finish to go with one career victory on tour.
“I missed three putts inside 10 feet the last three holes. That’s not going to win,” said Perez, who added there was nothing good he could think of to take away from the experience.
“No, no positive. Second, second, second. First loser,” he said.
Steve Flesch, who won the 2007 Reno-Tahoe Open, shot a 68 on Sunday and Blake Adams had a 69 to tie for third another stroke back.
“Best I’ve played in a couple of years,” said Flesch, 44, who claimed the most recent of his four career PGA victories four years ago.
“It makes me feel good that I can still play. I kind of would get to the point where I didn’t know if I could even compete any more out here with some of these guys,” he said. “I needed to play the par-5s better this week.
Jim Renner shot a 68 to claim fifth place at 12-under.
Steve Elkington and first-round leader Nick O’Hern both closed with 71s to finish in a group another two strokes back with Matt McQuillan (66) and Ben Martin (69).