Mou triumphs at frigid New Year’s Invite

A tournament winner shooting a final-round 79 is about as rare as freezing temperatures in Florida.

The New Year’s Invitational, played Jan. 7-10 in St. Petersburg, had both.

Florida freshman Tommy Mou held at least a share of the lead after each round, and was three ahead after 54 holes, but fell into a playoff after a final-round 79. He won the title when Michael McGowan, a North Carolina freshman, made double bogey on the second playoff hole.

photo

Tommy Mou

“It wasn’t a good round, but it was,” Mou said, laughing at the fact his less-than-stellar score still earned him a trophy.

Mou, McGowan (73) and Central Florida junior Nuno Henriques (75) finished regulation at 2-over 290 after four rounds at St. Petersburg Country Club. They finished two shots ahead of Cal-Berkeley senior John Murphy (75).

Henriques was eliminated on the first playoff hole. After driving in the trees on the second extra hole, McGowan had 245 yards remaining for his third shot into the par-5 18th. He hit 3-wood just short of the green, but flubbed his chip. His next chip rolled 12 feet by the hole, and he missed the bogey putt.

Mou, who made a hole-in-one with a 4-iron in the first round, joins an impressive list of recent winners that includes Golfweek’s top-ranked collegian, Peter Uihlein (2009), and PGA Tour players Jeff Overton (’05), Brandt Snedeker (’04) and J.B. Holmes (’03).

Terry Decker, the head pro at St. Petersburg Country Club, estimated the wind chill was in the 20s for the final two rounds this year. Cold rain fell Saturday, and a 20-mph breeze blew throughout the final day.

“It was pretty decent Thursday, wasn’t good Friday, bad Saturday and terrible today,” Decker said about the conditions.

The scoring average for the first three rounds was 77.2, and 80.7 for the final round. McGowan’s 73 matched the low final round, and was almost four shots better than the average score from the contenders. The top 24 finishers averaged 76.9 strokes in the final round.

Mou, who won the 2009 Florida Public Links, failed to qualify for No. 3 Florida’s starting lineup in the fall, but said he has focused recently on improving his putting. It paid off on the final hole of regulation, where he made a 6-foot par putt to get into the playoff.

McGowan, the son of former PGA Tour player Pat McGowan, was 1 under par through 16 holes in the final round, but made bogey on the final two holes.

“I tried to hit a punch 9-iron from 100 yards and it was still 20 yards short,” McGowan said of his approach to the final hole of regulation. “I don’t know how often that ever happens.”

It was just another strange occurrence at the New Year’s Invitational.

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