Doug Garwood experienced the realization of a longtime dream on Sunday.
The Van Nuys, Calif., native and Fresno State graduate shot a sizzling 8-under-par 64 over the final round, finishing at 16-under 200 and beating tour leader Bernhard Langer by four shots to win the 16th SAS Championship on Prestonwood Country Club’s Highlands Course.
The PGA Tour Champions win in his 44th tournament on the tour was Garwood’s first victory in a PGA-sanctioned event.
Never miss a local story.
Three other golfers – their playing partner Larry Mize, Tom Byrum and Jeff Sluman – were one shot behind Langer.
Garwood, 53, played in only two tournaments last year because of a back injury. He became the seventh first-time winner on the tour this season, and the fifth player to post his first tour victory at Prestonwood along with D.A. Weibring (2003), Mark Wiebe (2007), Tom Pernice Jr. (2009) and Kenny Perry (2011).
“It hasn’t really settled in yet,” said Garwood, the 11th player in the tournament’s history to win after playing in the final group. “Someone asked me last week, I think, when my last tournament win was and I blanked. I couldn’t think of one, so now I won’t have so much trouble. It feels great. It was a great day, played well. I beat a champion in Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize (the 1987 Masters winner) in my group, and I’m really ecstatic.”
Garwood, who earned $315,000 for the title to improve from 37th to 19th on the money list, had an anxious moment when he cleared the water by about 5 feet with his tee shot on No. 18 and landed in the sand. But he safely played his second shot onto the fairway, finishing the hole with plenty of breathing room despite his only bogey of the day.
“It’s really a 3-wood hole, but I figure my 3-wood is worse than my driver,” Garwood said. “I overcut it and it was in the bunker. I had a tough lie; it was sitting down. Sometimes I’ll chunk a bunker shot from the fairway. (But) with the water between me and the green, I said, ‘Five-shot lead, I don’t even have to hit the shot.’ So I just chipped it out and pretended it didn’t happen.”
Langer, who won at Prestonwood in 2012 and is seeking his third straight Charles Schwab Cup and fourth overall, remained far and away the money leader following the final tournament of the regular season. He shot 70 on Sunday to finish at 204 and is second on the money list at $1,525,237.
“I just didn’t have my A-game today,” Langer said. “I didn’t drive it well enough and didn’t putt good enough, so 2-under is not a terrible score but it wasn’t good enough today.
“And Doug just played phenomenal. His putter was hot. He just hit it and it went in, hit it and it went in. He started walking, and it dropped. He was like 9 under after 16 holes. That’s pretty amazing golf.”
Defending champion Tom Lehman was 1-under on Sunday to finish at 211. Reidsville’s UNC alumnus Mike Goodes shot a 65 on Sunday to finish at 213.
The tournament was the PGA Tour Champions’ first-ever “Wildcard Weekend,” with a chance for a golfer finishing in the top 10 to earn the 72nd spot in the playoffs.
But nobody played his way either in or out this weekend. Michael Bradley, who finished tied for 13th in the tournament and 73rd on the money list, was one stroke away from knocking the idle Corey Pavin off the bubble.
Following a 73 on Sunday, Smithfield’s Neal Lancaster finished 10-over par for the tournament and 75th on the money list.
The playoff tournaments are the Power Shares QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Oct. 28-30 with 72 players competing; the Dominion Charity Classic in Richmond, Va., Nov. 4-6 with 54 left; and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 11-13 among the final 36 pros.