Wilson edges Dufner to win Phoenix Open
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Packers fan Mark Wilson celebrated a big victory of his own on a playing field about as close to frozen tundra as it gets on the PGA Tour.
A self-described cheesehead from Menomonee Falls, Wis., Wilson won the frost-delayed Phoenix Open on Monday for his second victory in three starts this year, holing a 9-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff with Jason Dufner.
“I’m just enjoying the ride here and that’s just kind of the way I’m going to look at the year here, just ride this train as long as I can,” Wilson said.
After playing until dark Sunday and fulfilling some parental duties, he was able to watch only a few minutes of the Super Bowl.
“I had to wash Lane’s face and put his jammies on, and I had to eat, too,” Wilson said. “The chaos, with two little kids running around – I like the chaos; it’s a good distraction. But at that time, I want to at least get to watch the last 15 minutes of this game. This doesn’t happen every year, the Packers in the Super Bowl.
“Luckily, my son, after we played Candy Land in the middle of the fourth quarter, he said, ‘OK, the last two minutes we can watch it together.’ So we watched that last stand, and I was happy that they somehow pulled it off.”
Delays for frost and frozen turf the first four days forced the Monday finish.
Two strokes ahead when play resumed Monday, Wilson closed with a 2-under 69 to match Dufner at 18 under. Dufner shot a 66, with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.
“I was a little more nervous today than I was expecting,” Wilson said. “I didn’t sleep great last night. It was probably the excitement with the Super Bowl and the uncertainty of today.”
The Sony Open winner last month in a 36-hole Sunday finish, Wilson made a 4½-foot par putt on the par-4 18th to extend the playoff. He won on the par-4 10th, setting up the deciding putt with a 7-iron approach from the middle of the fairway.
“That was an easy putt,” Wilson said. “Just thankfully, I started it on line and knocked it in.”
Dufner was facing a 7½-foot par putt when Wilson ended the playoff.
“Came out and made a couple birdies to put maybe a little heat on Mark, and he played great,” Dufner said. “Great two-putt on the first playoff hole from 70-plus feet and makes birdie on the next hole.”
Wilson earned $1,098,000 for his fourth PGA Tour title. The 36-year-old former University of North Carolina player also won the 2007 Honda Classic and 2009 Mayakoba Golf Classic. He jumped from 91st to 51st in the world ranking – locking up a spot in the 64-man Match Play field – after finishing last season at No. 230.
After resuming play Monday on the 13th green, Wilson made seven straight pars before holing the winning birdie putt.
He nearly drove into the water on the left side of the 18th hole in regulation, but the ball cleared the hazard and ended up in a bunker. He hit a 9-iron approach to about 14 feet and two-putted to force the playoff.
“I got away with a bad tee shot on 18, but luckily got a good bounce and was hoping I’d finish it off there,” Wilson said. “But the playoff was fun.”
Dufner is winless on the PGA Tour. He also settled for par on the final hole of regulation after nearly holing out from a greenside bunker.
“It’s a good start to the year,” Dufner said. “To be honest, this is a course that I never really thought I could compete on. History on this golf course is a lot of long-ball hitters. Mark and myself probably aren’t the longest, but we’re probably not the shortest. But to be able to compete and be at the top of the field for the week is good, so it’s definitely good momentum for the rest of the West Coast swing.”
Martin Laird (65) and Vijay Singh (66) tied for third at 16 under, and Gary Woodland (66), J.B. Holmes (67) and Nick Watney (68) followed at 15 under.
Third-round leader Tommy Gainey, a stroke back with two holes left, closed with a 74 to tie for eighth at 14 under. He made a triple bogey on the par-4 17th after hitting into the water twice on the driveable hole.
“I guess I’ve just got to deal with it,” Gainey said. “You’ve got to win with class and you’ve got to lose with class, so I’m trying to deal with that right now.”
Phil Mickelson tied for 29th at 10 under. He finished with consecutive 71s after getting into contention with opening rounds of 67 and 65.
Mickelson, second a week ago in San Diego, needed at least a solo third-place finish to pass Tiger Woods for No. 3 in the world. Lefty hasn’t been ranked ahead of Woods since the week before the 1997 Masters.