Fort Wayne, Ind.  – Bud Cauley fired a 7-under 65 Sunday to come from behind and win the Hotel Fitness Championship and earn a return trip to the PGA TOUR for the 2014-15 season.

Cauley was two shots off the pace heading into the final round at Sycamore Hills Golf Club but jumped to the lead with five birdies on his first six holes and held off challenges by Englishman Greg Owen and 54-hole leader Colt Knost.

Cauley finished four days in Fort Wayne at 20-under-par 268, one better than Knost, who missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff.

The win is the first professional title for the 24-year old from Jacksonville, Fla. who spent the past three seasons on the PGA TOUR. He collected a check for $180,000.

“I’ve dreamt of winning golf tournaments on Tour,” said Cauley, who missed part of the PGA TOUR campaign with a dislocated shoulder. “It’s probably 80-20 between celebration and relief. It was a lot of fun today. Winning is what we aspire to do.”

Cauley took advantage of some short par-4s and a pair of early par-5s to leapfrog the leaders and set the pace.

“I knew I had to get off to a quick start and get a few of those (birdies) to get up with those guys and get near the lead,” said Cauley, who didn’t make a birdie putt longer that eight feet during the early run-up. “I  knew a quick start was huge.”

Cauley kept his eye on the leaderboard and was fully aware of what those closest to him were doing.

“The whole day I was watching,” said Cauley. “I knew with the par-5s on the back that I needed to keep making birdies.”

The former University of Alabama standout two-putted from 20 feet at No. 12 and rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at the par-5, 16th to reach double-double digits (20-under).

He missed a four-foot birdie putt at No. 17 and another from 25 feet at the last that would have sealed the win. Instead, the two misses gave Knost a chance to tie.

“I got off to a shaky start. The conditions were perfect and it was definitely get-able. It’s not like I went out and shot even-par or anything,” said Knost. “I’m really proud of the way I played 18. I sucked it up and a really good iron shot in there. I gave myself a chance and I thought I hit a good putt.”

The miss gave Cauley the win but there’s a consolation prize for Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion. A runner-up check for $108,000 will be more than enough to garner one of the 25- PGA TOUR cards up for grabs during the four-tournament Finals.

“That’s the goal, to get back,” said Knost, who will be back for his fifth season on Tour. “That’s awesome but I wanted to win today. I haven’t won in a long time but I gave it my all and I’m happy. I played great but Bud played better.”

The Web.com Tour Finals are comprised of four tournaments that match Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR players in a competition for 50 PGA TOUR cards for the 2014-15 season.

Greg Owen shot a final-round 70 to wind up at 16-under and four shots behind Cauley.

David Lingmerth (64), Tom Gillis (66) and Sam Saunders (72) tied for fourth place, six off the pace. Dick Pride (69) and Tyrone van Aswegen (71) shared seventh spot, seven back of the winner.

FOURTH ROUND NOTES:

* The top-25 money winners after 21 Web.com Tour regular season events all earned PGA TOUR cards for the upcoming 2014-15 PGA TOUR wraparound season, which begins in October. The group is still playing for their final position on that list of 25. A second set of 25 PGA TOUR cards will be given at the conclusion of the Tour Championship, the fourth of the four Finals events. The top-25 money winners in the four finals events will also earn TOUR cards.

* Sunday weather: Overcast in the morning with a few light sprinkles. Partly cloudy in the afternoon. Wind SW 4-8 mph. High of 82.

* Bud Cauley earns his first career win on the Web.com Tour in his ninth career start. In his only other start on Tour this year Cauley finished T29 at the El Bosque Mexico Championship.
 
* Cauley recently completed his third full season on the PGA TOUR. He made the cut in nine of 19 starts and had one top-10 finish – T4 at The Greenbrier Classic. He finished the Regular Season No. 143 on the FedExCup points list.
 
* Cauley was forced to sit out the end of the season with a dislocated shoulder after dislocating it at the John Deere Classic. He missed six weeks and dropped from No. 130 to No. 143 on the FedExCup list. In his lone start after the injury he missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship.
 
* Cauley picks up a check for $180,000 and assures himself a return trip to the Tour when the 2014-15 season begins in October.
 
* Cauley moves to No. 1 on the Finals Priority Ranking after the first of the four Web.com Tour Finals events.
 
* Cauley wins at the age of 24 years, 5 months, 15 days and earns the 14th win (in 22 tournaments) by players in their 20s this year on the Web.com Tour.
 
* Cauley’s tournament statistics:
37 of 56 fairways                    66.1%              T43
48 of 72 greens in regulation   66.7%              T19
101 putts                                                          T2
 
* Cauley became the 15th first-time winner on the Web.com Tour in 22 events this year.
 
* Cauley finished T5 in the Hotel Fitness Championship a year ago. He then finished T44 at the Chiquita Classic and T17 at the Web.com Tour Championship and wound up No. 18 on the Final Priority Ranking, which earned him a spot on the TOUR for 2013-14.

* Colt Knost has made 116 career starts on the PGA TOUR. He was a full-time member in 2009 and 2011-13. His best finishes came in 2012 when he finished T3 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and was solo third at the RBC Heritage.

* Knost made 76 career starts on the Web.com Tour prior to this week including 19 this year (14 made cuts). He finished the regular season No. 34 on the money list after a fourth-place effort at last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open. Knost won twice during the 2008 season at the Fort Smith Classic and the Price Cutter Charity Championship.

* Greg Owen collected a check for $68,000 this week, which should also be enough to qualify among the top-25 during the four Finals and move back to the PGA TOUR. Owen is a veteran of 201 career starts on the PGA TOUR  during seven-plus full seasons.

* Owen made six cuts in eight starts on TOUR this year but his best finish was a T24 at the Puerto Rico Open.

* Colt Knost has fired three consecutive, 5-under 67s and holds the 54-hole lead by one stroke. This is only the second time in Knost’s Web.com Tour career (77th start) that he has held/shared the third-round lead. Knost was up by one after three days at the 2008 Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo. and went on to shoot a 10-under 62 in the final round to complete a wire-to-wire win. He won by four over Webb Simpson.

* Knost is a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour. Both victories came during the 2008 season – Fort Smith Classic, Price Cutter Charity Championship – and helped him finish No. 6 on the final money list and earn his PGA TOUR card for the first time.

* Knost has made 48 cuts in 116 career starts on the PGA TOUR. He played the TOUR in 2009 and 2011-13. His best finishes came in 2012 when he was T3 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and solo third at the RBC Heritage. Knost missed the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship this year, his only TOUR start.

* David Lingmerth posted an 8-under 64 Sunday and moved up to finish T4 after starting the day T26. His 64 matches his low round of the year on the PGA TOUR.

* Lingmerth finished his second full season the PGA TOUR. He made 14 cuts in 26 starts and had a pair of top-25 finishes – T5 Crowne Plaza Invitational, T8 The Honda Classic. He ended the regular season No. 134 on the FedExCup points list.

* Lingmerth’s 64 today is his second-lowest final-round score. The former Arkansas Razorback shot a 10-under 62 in the last round of the 2013 Humana Challenge, which got him into a playoff against Charles Howell III and eventual champion Brian Gay.

* Matt Weibring’s 8-under 64 today matched his lowest round of the year. He also shot a 64 in the final round of the Air Capital Classic (solo 2nd). Weibring made eight cuts in 18 Web.com Tour starts this year and finished the regular season No. 32 on the money list.

* Bogey-free rounds this week:
R1       64 – Ryan Blaum; 65 – Greg Chalmers; 66 – Derek Fathauer; 67 – Vaughn Taylor;  68 – Kris Blanks

R2       67 – Doug LaBelle II; 69 – J.J. Henry; 70 – Henrik Norlander, Kris Blanks
R3       64 – John Peterson; 67 – Andrew Putnam, Colt Knost; 68 – Kyle Stanley
R4       65 – Bud Cauley; 66 – Richard H. Lee; 67 – Andrew Putnam

* Scoring Averages for the week:

            Front (36)       Back (35)        Total (71)
R1
       35.031             35.992             71.023
R2       35.827             35.701             71.528
R3       35.378             35.932             71.311
R4       34.797             35.757             70.554
Total   35.302             35.847             71.149

* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads to the Charlotte, NC area for the Chiquita Classic at River Run Country Club in Davidson. Last year, Andrew Svoboda two-putted the first extra hole to defeat Will MacKenzie in a playoff and earn his second win of the 2013 season. MacKenzie chipped in for eagle at the final hole to finish regulation play at 12-under and then waited as Svoboda squandered the lead with a bogey at No. 17 to force the second playoff in as many years at River Run. Ben Martin and John Peterson finished at 11-under, one shot back.

Author

Graham J Gordon, The Editor and Owner, GolfblogspotUK

The GolfblogspotUK website is owned and run by former Walker Cup player and European Tour card holder, Graham J Gordon, from Scotland, the Home of Golf. The owner is a golf fanatic who had to retire early from competitive tour play due to a back injury that required surgery. Graham wishes to share his knowledge and own experiences of the game with the GolfblogspotUK community and to receive your feedback on all aspects of the sport. Graham has been playing the game for over 20 years and received a great deal of pleasure from the sport. He has met several friends and visited many different places around the world, thanks to playing the great game of golf. Time to put a little back into the game to help others.

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