Scott Gardiner has today become the second Australian in two weeks to claim victory on the US Nationwide Tour, the win from a three-way playoff propelling Gardiner towards a PGA Tour card for next season.
With the win Gardiner follows in the footsteps of fellow Aussie Steven Bowditch, who last week secured his 2011 PGA Tour card by winning the Soboba Golf Classic.
But today it was all Gardiner who two-putted for birdie on the fourth playoff hole to beat Americans Joe Affrunti and David Branshaw for the title at the Nationwide Tour's Chattanooga Classic. Gardiner wasted little time in stepping up for his birdie putt from two feet even though Affrunti was out, staring at an eight-foot putt for par.
“You’ve got less time to think about it,” said Gardiner, who today earned his first career title. “I had hit a good putt (from 30 feet) to get it down there and I figured if I make it everybody gets to go home a little earlier. It was a short putt and if Joe missed I didn’t want him to lose with a bogey.”
It was the fourth time during Sunday's final round that Gardiner birdied the hole.
Playing in the penultimate group, Gardiner rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on the final hole for a 6-under 66 and a 19-under 269 total. Branshaw and Affrunti matched him with two-putt birdies of their own to force the fourth playoff in the tournament’s eight year history.
“I knew those guys were 18-under playing the last hole,” said Gardiner, who blasted his third from a greenside bunker at the 532-yard, par-5. “I tried to hit a good putt just like I did all week. I gave myself a shot at it and it was the best putt I’ve ever made.”
Affrunti and Gardiner both birdied the same hole twice to start the playoff. Branshaw was eliminated on the first extra hole after hitting his second shot into a hazard and settling for par. Gardiner then missed a five-foot birdie putt at the par-4, 9thhole, forcing the two to return the par-5.
Affrunti’s second shot found the same hazard guarding the right side of the green that eliminated Branshaw and had a putt for par but never got the chance.
“I just flared my shot and didn’t stay in it,” said Affrunti, who hit a hybrid into the green. “I did the same type of thing earlier in the week but it stayed in the bunker. It was just a bad shot.”
Affrunti, the second- and third-round leader was in control most of the last round and had built his lead to four strokes with an eagle at the par-5, 6th hole. The 29-year old Chicagoan stumbled with a double-bogey on the next hole but managed to hold the lead until another double-bogey at No. 13 dropped him behind Gardiner and playing partner Branshaw.
The drama built over the last five holes of regulation, with all three players making two birdies down the stretch.
“I really didn’t think about winning,” said Gardiner, who was five shots off the pace when the day began. “There were a lot of guys around my number that were playing well this week. I was just trying to have the best finish I could.”
His “best finish” produced a winner’s check for USD$90,000 and vaulted the 34-year old from No. 62 to No. 24 on the money list with only two full-field events left before the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship.
“It’s a lot easier than being 62 on the list and on the cut line on a Friday,” said Gardiner, clutching the large crystal trophy. “It’s great job security knowing I’ll be good for a few years down the road. Hopefully I can play like the next few weeks and go forward.”
The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will earn their PGA TOUR cards for 2011.
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PGA of Australia
About the PGA of Australia The PGA of Australia has a membership that comprises all Australian professional golfers and includes tournament professionals, club professionals, assistant professionals, teaching professionals, senior professionals and trainees.
The PGA’s core aim is to help more Australians enjoy golf more often. In doing so, the PGA aims to deliver more business opportunities to its members.
Each year the PGA of Australia stages over 430 tournaments from the Australian PGA Championship to the state based Pro-Am circuits that take professional golf to the masses.
The PGA of Australia is the official sanctioning body for all elite male professional tournament golf in Australasia.
P: 03 8320 1993