2006: Sweet music for Maggert

Memphis

One week after Tim Herron broke his seven-year winless skid on the PGA Tour, Jeff Maggert shattered one of his own. Apparently, one good seven-year itch scratches another.

Maggert, 42, finally got a balky putter to perform at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Having tinkered for months trying to find just the right loft and lie in his putter, he finally settled on a model just a few minutes before he strolled to hit his first tee shot at the TPC at Southwind. Three days later, he used that putter to roll in four birdies and an eagle to seize his first Tour title since 1999.

“I’m sure the guys in the Ping trailer will be happy,” joked Maggert, who closed with a 5-under 65 for a three-stroke victory over Tom Pernice Jr. “They might not see me for a while.”

Maggert began the round three strokes back, but won easily, pulling away with two huge putts down the stretch.

He sealed his first victory since the 1999 WGC-Accenture Match Play by rolling in a 36-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th to build a three-stroke lead. He added a 33-footer for birdie at the next hole and cruised home, becoming only the fourth player this season to come from behind to win on the final day.

On a course that reminded many of a U.S. Open-type exam, Maggert, a long-time Open stalwart, finished at 9-under 271, marking the first time the champion did not get beyond single digits under par on the TPC at Southwind.

“He closed the door,” said Pernice of Maggert. “He played good. He deserves to win.”

Pernice, who started Sunday tied with Herron atop the leaderboard, shot 71 and finished three back at 6-under 274. John Cook, 48, who shot 26 under in Memphis in 1996, shot 71 to tie Kris Cox (72) for third.

Herron was trying to join Phil Mickelson in winning consecutive tournaments on Tour this season, but failed to find the Sunday magic he conjured at Colonial a week earlier. He had a pair of double bogeys and shot 77, sliding into a tie for 16th at even-par 280.

Maggert had missed his last three cuts, and had not finished better than eighth this season. The father of five, including twins who turn 2 this August, Maggert says he has priorities higher than golf, and he hadn’t even planned to tee it up in Memphis.

When he failed to get into the field at Colonial, Maggert decided to add the start, hoping to get his game in shape for a run at the U.S. Open.

It’s hard to believe Maggert, a solid ballstriker who plays well on tough courses, has only three Tour victories to his name. Certainly Maggert finds it hard to swallow.

“I would’ve bet I would’ve won more times by now,” he said. “With five kids at home, I have a lot of other priorities that are important to me in my life. It’s just great I can come out here and do this. . . . (I’m) still fortunate I can come out and win at the age of 42.”

Said Cook, “Why he hasn’t won more tournaments is beyond me.”

Maggert arrived in Memphis tied for 149th in putting average, but needed only 25 putts Sunday and finished with 99 over four rounds. He became only the second player this season to need fewer than 100 putts for a victory. (Aaron Baddeley, who won the Verizon Heritage, is the other.)

Maggert said he had tried not to worry too much about his mechanics.

“It gets to be such a mental thing. Like I’ve said, I’ve tried to simplify and not think too much on the greens. Just read the putts on the lines that I’m seeing,” Maggert said.

The final round started with Pernice and Herron tied at 7 under, and eight players within four strokes. When Cox bogeyed No. 7, he joined Herron, Pernice, Cook and Jay Delsing in a five-way tie for the lead.

Maggert didn’t know he had a share of the lead until he finished the 15th hole. He stepped to the 530-yard 16th hoping to make birdie, and rifled a 2-iron second shot from 232 yards that rolled to the back of the green.

“I was a little worried about maybe hitting it too hard,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I two-putted for bird. I just hit it on line. It went in.”

Sounds simple enough, like something that should happen all the time. It doesn’t, though. For Maggert, it had been 180 events since he last tasted victory. Just like that, he was holding a trophy again, and thrusting himself into the picture to make his fourth Ryder Cup team.

“It will be a good win for me,” he said, “and hopefully boost my confidence for the rest of the summer.”

– Staff and wire reports

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