Five Things: After injuries, Wetterich wins in Louisiana
The Nationwide Tour had an interesting leaderboard for its first domestic event of 2011, with a former Ryder Cup participant beating out a collegian by a single shot. Brett Wetterich, making a comeback from injury after playing on the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team, won the Louisiana Open by a shot over Florida’s Andres Echavarria.
1.) Comeback kid: Wetterich, 37, made a tap-in birdie at No. 15, then closed with three consecutive pars to win his third Nationwide Tour title. Wetterich also won the 2006 Byron Nelson. He didn’t participate in a PGA Tour event from June 1, 2008, to March 4, 2010, an abscense of nearly two years. Wetterich began this season with one event remaining in a major medical extension, but failed to keep his card. Wetterich, once ranked as high as No. 22 in the world, had wrist surgery in December 2008. He finished 13th at the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Classic earlier this year, and had five top-25s in 16 PGA Tour starts last year.
2.) Amateur hour: Echavarria finished second to join Jamie Lovemark, Rickie Fowler and Charles Howell III as the only players to finish second in a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur. Daniel Summerhays’ victory at the 2007 Nationwide Children’s Invitational remains the only win in tour history by an amateur. Echavarria earned his spot in the tournament by tying for 19th in the tour’s Bogota Open, which he played on a sponsor exemption.
Because Echavarria is an amateur, former Gator Bubba Dickerson earned the runner-up’s $54,000 check. Dickerson, who won the 2009 Louisiana Open, has finished 16th, eighth and third in three events this year. He ranks fourth on the tour’s money list. The former U.S. Amateur champion is seeking his first PGA Tour card since 2007.
3.) Manic Monday: After three consecutive even-par 71s, Monday qualifier John Kimbell shot a final-round 61 to vault from 48th to fourth. Kimbell, winner of the tour’s South Georgia Classic in 2007, has conditional status after finishing 90th on last year’s money list.
4.) Moving on: Julian Etulain, the leading money winner on last year’s Tour de las Americas, continues an impressive run on the Nationwide Tour. He finished 13th in Louisiana to earn a start at the Tour’s next event, the Fresh Express Classic April 14-17 near San Francisco. Etulain also finished third at the Bogota Open. The 22-year-old is eighth on the tour’s money list. Etulain also finished 42nd at the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open this year.
5.) Odds and ends: Carl Paulson, who missed the better part of five years on Tour with back problems, finished fourth. He not only made his first cut on either tour since 2005 but also collected his first top-10 finish since a T-5 at the 2002 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic. Brenden Pappas, winner of the Bogota Open, shot a final-round 64 to finish 25th and retain his top spot on the money list. Danny Lee, the 2008 U.S. Amateur champion, finished seventh. Lee led the field in greens in regulation. He made nine birdies in his Sunday 65.