DES MOINES, Iowa – Injuries kept Russ Cochran from playing up to his lofty expectations in 2012.
Finally healthy, Cochran broke through with a win that thrust him back into title contention on the Champions Tour.
Cochran won the Principal Charity Classic on Sunday for his fourth career senior circuit title, closing with a 5-under 67 for a one-stroke victory over Jay Don Blake.
Cochran, who battled through rib and wrist injuries last season, finished at 11-under 205 at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines.
The left-hander, who entered the day two strokes behind second-round leader Duffy Waldorf, broke a winless streak that stretched 35 tournaments.
“I didn’t really expect to win. But I knew I could compete and get in contention. Of course, when you do that, sometimes good things happen,” Cochran said.
Blake shot 69. He bogeyed the par-3 17th with his first three-putt of the tournament to fall a stroke behind. He had a chance to force a playoff, but his birdie try on the par-4 18th missed to the right.
“I quit on the stroke. I didn’t make a good stroke. I kind of de-accelerated and left it out there to the right,” Blake said.
Waldorf had a 71, his only round above 70 all weekend, to tie for third at 9 under with Mark Calcavecchia and Kirk Triplett. Calcavecchia and Triplett shot 67.
Peter Senior was alone in sixth at 8-under par.
Throughout the final round, it felt as though someone was going to hit a great shot to seize control of the tournament.
Instead, it was a poor tee shot by Blake that opened the door for Cochran.
Blake left his first effort on the 174-yard 17th hole about 50 feet short, and it took three putts to find the hole. Cochran, playing a hole ahead, made par on 18 to put the onus on Blake.
Though Blake couldn’t come through on the last hole, he still managed his second second-place finish of the year and the fifth of his career.
“From then on, it just seemed like I was a little bit cautious with the putter. I wasn’t stroking as aggressive as I was before,” Blake said after his tee shot on No. 17.
Cochran would have been just a shot off the lead entering Sunday if he hadn’t missed a 3-foot putt on No. 18 in the second round.
He didn’t let that miscue affect him early on, leaning on a tweak he made to his putting mechanics late on Saturday for a strong finish on the greens.
Cochran birdied three of the first five holes — including on a par-3, 4 and 5 — to grab the lead from Waldorf. Waldorf caught Cochran at 9-under at the end of the front nine, where they were joined in the lead by a surging Blake.
Blake bogeyed two of the first three holes before ripping off birdies on six of nine holes.
But Blake missed a 2-footer for the lead at No. 13, and he and Cochran stayed even until Cochran birdied No. 15 for a one-shot lead.
Cochran then missed a 4-footer for par at No. 16, and both stood at 11-under heading into the final two holes.
In the end, Blake’s putting abandoned him at the worst possible time.
Blake is “a tremendous putter. I didn’t want to … see him roll it in with all the confidence, and I just felt like he would make it. Being such a good friend, I wanted him to make it,” Cochran said.
Points leader Bernhard Langer shot a 69 to salvage even-par for the tournament. But Langer has finished out of the top 10 in four straight tournaments after he finished either first or second four times to start the year.
Jay Haas, who has won in Iowa three times, made a late run at the leaders with a 4-under 68 on Sunday. He finished with seven others at 7-under.