Mark Wilson wins his 3rd PGA TOUR title at the 2011 SONY Open
Mark Wilson, the professional golfer—not Wilson the volleyball from Tom Hanks' Cast Away movie—is coming home from the Hawaiian Islands with the 2011 SONY Open trophy in his possession.
Wilson has now won in each of the last three odd years: 2007 (Honda Classic), 2009 (Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun) and now 2011.
No worries since each win came with a two year exemption to bridge him to his next win.
For the man who cites Ben Hogan as his hero, he too is hawk-like with steely determination whether it counts or does not count.
Though previously exempt for this year, Wilson recorded only his second Top-10 last year at the season's final event at Disney and jumped from outside the Top-125 at No. 140 to inside the number at No. 123.
After all Wilson is the guy who went to 10 straight Q-Schools before that first victory in 2007.
With the first round a complete washout on Thursday, a 36-hole Sunday shootout was necessitated to get the tournament in with the five-round Bob Hope Classic starting on Wednesday.
In fact 57 players made the cut and were at most only seven strokes back starting off on the final day.
At the 1927 Seth Raynor designed Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Mark Wilson, the 36-year-old Chicagoan remained calm and cool and collected the winning paycheck of $990,000.
He went bogey-free for 36 holes on the Sunday finale posting 65-67 to beat 2010 PLAYERS champion Tim Clark and yet-to-win on the PGA TOUR Steve Marino.
Last week was tournament champions' week on Maui with Jonathan Byrd earning a return trip to the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Wilson won the show this week and a trip to Kapalua next year.
The week was billed as the debut of the rookies of the PGA TOUR.
This year's class of rookies numbers 35 and ranks among the youngest in PGA TOUR history.
There are 29 rookies under the age of 30, of which 15 are 25 years of age or younger.
Nine of the rookies have never even played in a PGA TOUR event.
Georgia's Chris Kirk, age 25, finished 6-under par in T30 position and led the contingent of 27 rookies that made it into the field.
Bio Kim, the youngest rookie at age 20 shot 73-67 and missed the cut by 3 strokes in his very first PGA TOUR event.
Joseph Bramlett, the second-youngest member of the 2011 rookie class with two previous PGA TOUR starts made the cut but did not play the final two rounds on Sunday as the field was reduced due to sunlight restrictions. He is the first black golfer to advance through Q-school since Adrian Stills in 1985.
Jamie Lovemark, the Nationwide Tour champion shot 72-70 and like Bio Kim missed the cut by three strokes in his 14th career PGA TOUR event.
To balance out the youth, veteran Champions Tour player Dave Eichelberger shot his age of 67 at the Aloha Section PGA Professional Championship to earn a spot in the field. Playing in his combined 1,247th PGA TOUR/Champions start (second only to Miller Barber's 1,292 starts) Eichelberger missed the cut by 15 strokes but bested rookie Kevin Kisner playing in his maiden event.
The week started with Dustin Johnson withdrawing for personal reasons only days after his relationship with Natalie Gulbis became public news. Maybe the "Bam & Sham" show did not go over so well back home?
Johnson has since said he is not in a relationship with Gulbis or anyone for that matter.
Last rookie Jim Renner took Ricky Barnes spot in the field and shot 69-70 making the cut but not finishing like Bramlett. Barnes No. 43 on last year's Money List cited a back injury as the reason for his decision to withdraw.
Make a note that in the first full-field event of the 2011 PGA TOUR season 8 rookies who earned their card for 2011 did not earn the right to put a peg in the ground.
Once play finally started on Friday, Stuart Appleby returned to using the putter that made him the most recent "Mr. 59" and led the field posting a 6-under 64. Wilson shot 65 along with 8 other guys.
At the end of Saturday's Round Two it was Shigeki Maruyama playing with a yellow ball and Appleby tied at 10-under two strokes ahead of the field.
Maruyama was seeking his fourth PGA TOUR win, and first since the 2003 Wyndham Championship, a span of 171 TOUR starts.
The unusual cut was to the closest to the number 60 to get 36 holes in between the Hawaiian sunrise at 7:12 a.m. and sunset at 6:11 p.m.
A total of 68 golfers would have made the cut if it came at 2-under.
The number of players at three under or better was 57 and since that number is closer to 60 than 68 that is where the play cut came.
The 11 players at two under and 16 more at one under technically made the cut receiving prize money and FedExCup points but did not finish (MDF).
A normal cut to the low 70 and ties would have come at one under with 84 players advancing though another cut would have come after 54 holes.
The reality is that the 27 MDF players lost their chance to win or improve over final two rounds.
In the Sunday morning third round Mark Wilson posted a five under 65 to move to 13-under with a one-stroke lead over Marino and a two-stroke gap over Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar and Appleby.
With no repairing of groups after the third round- the "final" foursome of Maruyama (70 in third round), Appleby (69) and Thatcher (68) were never in contention.
The excitement of the final round fell to the "next to last" pairing of Wilson (65), Kuchar (66) and Marino (66).
The wildcard in the fourth round was Clark who went off the back nine early and posted 66-64 to be the leader in the clubhouse at 14-under.
The South African finished strong with a birdie on No. 6 (his 15th hole) to get within three strokes. Then he nearly aced the par-three seventh with the tap-in deuce narrowing the gap to two strokes.
Clark birdied the par five ninth to narrow Wilson's lead to one stroke.
Wilson after starting the final round with a two under front side continued to make pars with the slimmest of leads and no one left on the course making a charge.
After he bunkered his tee shot short left on the par three 17th Wilson drained the remaining 12-footer for par. Knowing he had only the short par five 18th left and a two-stroke lead over Marino this was the putt for the win and after making it, he accentuated the perfect stroke with a fist pump.
Marino trying to make eagle to tie the lead with a Wilson par, hit a miraculous second shot on 18. With his feet in the bunker and the ball in the rough at the height of his waist he reached the green in two strokes.
Marino failed to make the long eagle putt and Wilson made a short putt for birdie for the two-stroke win.
Marino continues to search of his first PGA TOUR win after this his third career runner-up finish in the last four seasons.
"I'm just tickled to death," was Wilson's response after his win in a Monday playoff at the 2007 Honda Classic even though that win did not receive an automatic invite to Augusta National nor did the opposite-field Mayakoba win.
I wonder what he will feel like when he plays in his very first Masters in 12 weeks.
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer covering all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.
Reistetter resides in Pont Vedra Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida and pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.