Steven Bowditch (-8) won his first PGA Tournament on Sunday at the 2014 Valero Texas Open, outlasting the field on a day in which low scores were few and far between.
Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays finished in second place at seven-under par, one shot behind, while Matt Kuchar and Andrew Loupe both dropped from second place into a tie for fourth at six-under par after poor outings on Sunday.
Here is the updated leaderboard:
View the full leaderboard at PGATour.com. All stats via PGATour.com.
Day 4 Recap
It wasn't pretty, but Bowditch did just enough to cling to victory on Sunday, shooting a four-over-par 76 that included a bogey on the par-5 18th. He was able to card just two birdies in the final round, posting four bogies and one double-bogey.
ESPN's Justin Ray notes this was the highest final-round score by a winning golfer on the PGA Tour since Fred Couples at the 1983 Kemper Open:
Steven Bowditch's 76 is the highest final round score by a @PGATOUR winner (non-major) since Fred Couples at the 1983 Kemper Open.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) March 30, 2014
In the end, however, it mattered not, as the rest of the leaders failed to capitalize on the golden opportunity to seize victory.
After the emotionally taxing round, Bowditch was understandably in awe of what he'd just accomplished, as relayed by the PGA Tour on Twitter:
After his well-documented struggle with depression, this victory is a testament to his ability to overcome monumental obstacles and is a story everyone who's dealt with the affliction can appreciate.
In addition to a wallet-popping paycheck of $1,116,000, Bowditch earned another prize which he might well cherish more than the money:
If he thought the pressure was intense this Sunday, then he'll be in for a shock when he hits the course at legendary Augusta National in April. That said, the thrill of just making it into the Masters will likely carry him past any of that when the time comes.
Any time a player wins his first tournament on tour, it's a big deal. But for a guy like Bowditch who's struggled to even stay on tour—let alone win—this must be particularly satisfying.
Day 3 Recap
Following up two impressive rounds at TPC San Antonio, Bowditch kept his cool on Saturday to shoot his third straight round in the 60s to lead the tournament heading into Sunday's final round.
The talented Aussie got off to a torrid start, going three-under par through his first two holes. And as the PGA Tour showed, he didn't even need his putter:
Bowditch added another birdie on No. 5 before finally succumbing to a bogey on No. 9, but he rebounded nicely with seven straight pars. He then added another birdie on No. 17 to go up by two strokes over the field, finishing with a third-round score of 68.
Australian golf writer Benjamin Everill pointed out Bodwitch's proclivity for shooting low in the past, noting it has been the big mistakes that have tripped him up prior to his stellar showing this week:
Steven Bowditch has always been a birdie machine. It's keeping big numbers off card that has hurt him. Let's hope he stays on birdie train!— Benjamin Everill (@beneverill) March 29, 2014
As hot as Bodwitch has been, he'll likely need another round in the 60s to stave off hard-charging Matt Kuchar—among others.
The veteran shot the low round of the tournament on moving day to move to within three shots of the lead, thanks to shots like this one on the first hole, via the PGA Tour:
Afterward, Kuchar commented on the relief he experienced after winning his first event after seven long years in response to the fact that Bodwitch is still seeking his first, as relayed by Kirk Bohls:
Matt Kuchar went 7 yrs w/out a PGA win, in third after 63 score, two shots back. "When you finally win, it's amazing joy, relief."— kbohls (@kbohls) March 29, 2014
Kuchar isn't the only golfer within striking distance of the lead, either.
Loupe, who has also never before won on the PGA Tour, is three strokes behind Bodwitch at nine-under par. Tour veterans Pat Perez and Kevin Na are also one brilliant round away from stealing victory on Sunday.
Given the fact that Bodwitch hasn't won before, it shouldn't shock anyone if he can't finish the deal in the final round. Kuchar and the other top golfers on the leaderboard who have won in the past will keep the pedal to the metal on Sunday, and it'll take nerves of steel for the Australian to come away victorious.
Every prospective winner must pass similar tests to finally break though, however, and the way Bodwitch has played thus far in Texas this weekend, he appears ready to finally claim his first trophy.
Day 2 Recap
Steven Bowditch surged to the top of the leaderboard after Friday's play, shooting a five-under 67 to move ahead of Chad Collins and Andrew Loupe, each nipping at his heels at seven-under.
In fact, had he not double-bogeyed the final hole, he would have opened an even more impressive lead. Still, he was pleased with his day, as he told Reuters (via Eurosport):
It was nice to get out early before that wind started to get up.
I'm not making many putts at the moment. Most of my birdies have been coming inside six or five feet. I've hit a lot of good wedge shots.
I made a couple (of) good par saves on my backside but all in all it's been more hit my approach shots pretty close and get myself in position.
Perhaps not surprisingly, all three of the top players on the leaderboard started in the morning. The wind certainly became a factor later in the day.
Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson made the cut by the skin of his teeth. From PGA.com:
Mickelson finished at two-under for the day, putting him at three-over par for the tournament. While he was the story for much of the day, there were plenty of highlights from a full day of golf.
There was Freddie Jacobson nailing a long birdie.
And Will MacKenzie impressed everyone with this eagle.
On the day, Collins and Wes Roach tied for the best round with a 66.
Things should be plenty exciting over the weekend, as 14 players are within five strokes of Bowditch, and talented golfers like Zach Johnson (three-under) and Matt Kuchar (two under) are lurking.
If Bowditch improves his overall putting game, the field will have reason for concern. But for the moment, the Valero Open is, well, wide open.
Day 1 Recap
Fog is certainly not the most menacing of elements, but as you can see in the below tweet from the Golf Channel, it was making it a touch difficult to track the ball:
The players and tournament were forced to deal with a delayed start and will now be playing catchup.
This all worked out fine for Pat Perez and Danny Lee, who both went out with the early group and set the standard by going out and finishing at four-under.
The source of Perez's success was easy to pinpoint, and Odyssey Golf was more than happy to tweet about it:
Perez hasn't finished higher than 44th in any of his last three tournaments, but he was on fire prior to that. Starting with the Sony Open in mid-January, Perez finished in the top 11 in four of five tournaments. His highest finish in that span was a second at the Farmers Insurance Open.
After the round, Perez offered up this quote to PGATour.com's Sean Martin on the state of his game:
I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what my swing is doing and what the ball is doing. I feel as confident as I ever have with my ball striking and where the ball is going to go and if I can make a couple putts, I feel like I can shoot a pretty good score.
Perez wasn't the only one doing work with the flat iron. Lee used this long effort on No. 15 for a birdie:
Lee finished the day with 1.963 strokes gained-putting. What really helped Lee, however, was an insanely hot finish. Lee began No. 14 at even par. He then birdied four of his last five holes to grab a share of the clubhouse lead.
Meanwhile, this event had a rare occurrence as legend Phil Mickelson decided to tee it up at an event he typically skips.
In a quote captured by the Associated Press' Tim Price on newsobserver.com, Mickelson explains why he decided to play this year:
I haven't had the sort of success I've wanted to early in the season. I want to get in contention. I want to have competitive rounds and work on proper golf and managing the game. So this is a great opportunity to build some momentum heading into Augusta.
Lefty may be second-thinking that decision. He fired his worst round of the year with a 77.
Will MacKenzie had one of the day's most exciting shots with a near ace on No. 16. PGA Tour tweeted the shot:
Mackenzie went on to convert the birdie opportunity. Had that tee shot dropped, however, he would be tied for the lead. As it is, he is in just one shot off the lead.
As for Loupe, he was all over the place in his abbreviated round. He started on the back nine and had two bogeys and five birdies. He then added a birdie on No. 1 to move into a share of the lead.
PGA rookie Loupe could use sustained success. He missed the cut in each of his first five PGA events of the year. His last event came in the watered-down field at the Puerto Rico Open, and he had a strong showing with a 12th-place finish.
There is a strong field at this event, but that isn't reflected by the current leaderboard. I expect that to start changing as this tournament progresses.