Chesson Hadley won the Web.com Tour Championship, John Peterson claimed the money title for the four-event Web.com Tour Finals and Lee Williams survived a wild day of jockeying for position to earn his PGA Tour card, thanks to a 50-foot birdie putt at the last.
For some there was joy, others relief, and plenty of heartbreak as 50 PGA Tour cards were handed out at the end of the day.
According to the Tour’s projections, 44 of the 50 cards at stake had been decided, based on what had happened during the first three events of the Web.com Tour Finals and through 54 holes of the final tournament. Going into the last round, 27 players were still mathematically alive to punch their ticket, including two who had missed the 36-hole cut.
Hadley was among the players who had clinched Tour privileges by finishing in the top 25 of the Web.com Tour regular-season money list. They competed for a better position on the Tour’s priority status list entering the 2013-14 season.
Hadley captured his second victory of the year, shooting a 69 to finish at 10-under 270, but lost the money title by $567 when Scott Gardiner bogeyed the 17th hole and fell from second place alone into a four-way tie for second.
“I was just trying to not puke on myself on the way in, even though I tried,” Hadley said. “This course is brutal and I’m glad I was able to conquer it.”
Here are 5 Things To Know from the Web.com Tour Championship.
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1. HADLEY WINS: Chesson Hadley left TPC Sawgrass on Saturday on a sour note. After playing bogey-free for his first 16 holes, he played the last two holes 3 over and coughed up the 54-hole lead. But later than night, during a conversation with his wife, he was able to turn a negative into a positive: He never had played well with a lead in the past.
“I think that was a blessing not having the lead,” he said.
Hadley raced out of the gate with birdies on three of his first five holes and caught 54-hole leader Scott Gardiner at the third hole. “If I didn’t get off to the start that I was able to put together, I probably wouldn’t have won today,” Hadley said.
Having won earlier this year at the Rex Hospital Open, Hadley capped off his season by hoisting another trophy.
“To come away with victory,” he said, “I’m very proud of that.”
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2. FRITSCH ON FIRE, SECURES CARD: Brad Fritsch made the biggest move of the day, shooting a 4-under 66 that included nine birdies. His tie for second vaulted him to No. 14 in the priority status for next season.
Fritsch had missed the cut at the first three events during the Web.com Tour Final.
“My last good tournament was Reno and that feels like a long time ago,” Fritsch said.
It didn’t start much better this week. He was 1 over par through eight holes in the second round and in danger of missing the cut before rallying to make three birdies and play the weekend.
Fritsch started the day knowing he would have conditional status after finishing No. 129 on the FedEx Cup money list. But a hot putter made sure he’ll have better status than that. Fritsch, who rarely makes a putter change, switched to a slightly different model of his Scotty Cameron by Titleist Newport putter this week.
“It had the same hosel but more face balance and I was able to take it straighter back,” he explained.
Fritsch’s birdie binge included two bombs: a 40-footer on No. 8 and a 50-footer on No. 11 for birdies.
“I told him to put the pedal to the medal,” his caddie, Jeff Scott, said. “We needed a couple more.”
Fritsch made birdies at Nos. 12 and 16 to offset bogeys at Nos. 14 and 17, after chunking his chip.
“That was all nerves,” he said.
But in the end, Fritsch had the steely touch to retain his Tour card.
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3. PETERSON WINS MONEY TITLE, EXEMPTION: By the grand sum of $567, John Peterson edged Chesson Hadley for the top spot on the Web.com Tour Finals money list. Peterson fired a 3-under 67 Sunday and finished T-2 at 8-under-par 272. He finished in the top five in all four playoff events and earned $230,000 during the stretch. When told at the 18th hole scoring area that he had clinched the title, he said, “I did. Are you sure?”
A smile split his sunburned face and he hugged his agents, his parents, and his caddie. Peterson is fully exempt for the entire 2013-2014 Tour season and earned an invite to The Players Championship.
At the Tour card presentation, Peterson said, “It was a rough road when I turned pro. I never made it through a single stage at Q-School. That’s why I’m a fan of this system. I think they hit it on the nail.”
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4. WILLIAMS IN, GONZALES OUT: Lee Williams and Andres Gonzales were paired together in the final round and their fates would be decided on the final green. Williams buried a 50-foot birdie putt to earn his card.
As they walked off the 18th tee, Russ Bethel, Williams’s caddie, told him he had to birdie the hole. But Williams didn’t think it was going to be enough. Bethel guaranteed it. After knocking his approach onto the green, Williams said, “Guess I have to make this putt.”
As he examined the line, Williams remembered back to the when he was 17 years old and faced a 50-footer straight uphill to get into a playoff at the 2000 Future Masters. He made the putt and then won the playoff.
“I said to myself, ‘I’ve done it before,’ ” Williams said.
He did it again. The putt crested the hill, took the break and dropped for a miraculous birdie. “It was probably breaking about 2 feet, left to right,” he said.
Williams had been on the bubble all week. He shot a 69 in the third round and went from trailing by $1,068 to No. 50 and $976 ahead of Andrew Loupe for the final card. The birdie putt at 18 on Sunday lifted Williams to 6 under and he climbed all the way to No. 31 in the priority standings.
In a classy gesture, Gonzales gave Williams a high-five. Then it was Gonzales’s turn. His 12-foot birdie putt could bump Williams out, but he missed. Gonzales still had hope if Loupe missed a 6-foot par putt at the last. But Loupe canned it and Gonzales was the odd man out. He finished T-8, a mere $1,797 short.
Gonzales almost pulled off an incredible run to return to the Tour. First, he parlayed a bogey-free 6-under 64 in the final round of the Wyndham Championship into his first top-10 finish, and improved from 238th in the FedEx Cup standings heading into the week to No. 198. That snuck him into the Web.com Tour Finals.
On Sunday, he toured the front nine in 32 and had moved inside the number. But he made three bogeys during his closing nine holes, and no fresh words of encouragement afterwards would alter Gonzales’s mood.
On this day, Williams and Gonzales defined the ABC Wide World of Sports slogan: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
“I couldn’t have imagined that my year would have come down to a 50-footer for birdie on the last hole of the season,” Williams said. “That was my biggest thrill of the year.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Lee Williams was joined by Joe Durant, Billy Hurley III, and Russell Knox as players who began the week outside the top 25 on the money list and earned their Tour cards. . . . Andrew Loupe, a teammate of Peterson’s at LSU, shot a 69 to finish T-6 and earn his card. . . . Andrew Putnam fell short in his bid to join his older brother Michael, winner of the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, on the Tour next season. Andrew made a triple bogey on the eighth hole and ballooned to a 75 to tie for 24th.