5 Things: Storylines from N'wide opener
The Panama Claro Championship marked the beginning of the 2011 Nationwide Tour season. Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, started the final round with the lead, but was overtaken after a back-nine 39. Mathew Goggin, a member of the PGA Tour the past five seasons, collected a two-shot victory:
1. Compton falters: Erik Compton held the 54-hole lead, but didn’t get his storybook ending. Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, played the final five holes in 4 over to shoot a final-round 75 and finish fourth, three shots back of Goggin.
Still, the finish got Compton into this week’s Bogota Open and will improve his status when the Nationwide Tour reshuffles its eligibility rankings based on season earnings. Compton started 2011 with conditional status after finishing 100th at Q-School. Compton, 31, was Panama’s seventh alternate. It was his best Nationwide Tour finish since 2006.
2. Goggin gets his win: Goggin made birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 to win the Panama Claro Championship by two shots and help his chances of returning to the PGA Tour.
Goggin, a PGA Tour member from 2006-’10, played alongside Tom Watson in the final group of the 2009 British Open, which Watson nearly won at 59 years old. Goggin wasn’t just along for the ride - he held the lead at one point on the final nine before finishing fifth.
Less than two years after the Open, Goggin was demoted to the Nationwide Tour. He finished 159th on the PGA Tour money list in 2010, and was two shots shy of regaining his Tour card at Q-School.
After coming up short at Q-School, Goggin didn’t touch a club for more than a month. He returned to the game in the third week of January by taking a four-day trip to Bandon Dunes. Goggin chose to play this season without ball or club endorsements his manager, Nick Biesecker, told Golfweek. His hat features his personal logo from his Web site. The logo depicts a Tasmanian tiger, which is extinct. Goggin is from Tasmania.
3. Saunders earns another start: Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, made the most of a sponsor exemption into the Panama Claro Championship. Saunders tied for 10th, his best career Nationwide finish, thanks to a third-round 63. His finish earned him a spot in this week’s Bogota Open. He finished 15th earlier this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, his best career PGA Tour finish. Diego Velasquez, a first-team All-American last season at Oregon State, also used a sponsor exemption to finish in the top 25 and earn a spot in the Bogota field. Velasquez, a native Colombian, finished 16th in Panama.
4. Lee’s costly collapse: Danny Lee, the 2008 U.S. Amateur champion, had a share of the 36-hole lead in Panama, but shot 72-79 on the weekend to finish 38th. Lee will split time between the European and Nationwide tours this year. He’s planning on playing the first three Nationwide events of the season as he seeks the first PGA Tour card of his career. Lee, 20, has fallen to No. 536 in the Official World Golf Ranking. By contrast, he was ranked 147th when he played the 2009 Masters as an amateur.
5. In Stiles: Darron Stiles, 37, made the most of his opportunity in Panama. Stiles was the event’s ninth alternate, but shot a final-round 66 to finish second and collect his best Nationwide Tour finish since 2008. He tied Australia’s Alistair Presnell, who’s finished 37th and 28th on the Nationwide Tour money list the past two years. Presnell had a chance to earn a PGA Tour card via last year’s Nationwide Tour, but faded down the stretch.