Newburgh, Ind. – Englishman Greg Owen proved that leading a golf tournament only matters after the last hole. The 43-year old Owen posted a 5-under 67 Sunday and earned his first career win at the United Leasing Championship presented by PTI when, one-by-one, the remaining challengers all faltered down the treacherous stretch of closing holes at Victoria National Golf Club.
Owen bogeyed the closing hole and posted his 9-under-par total nearly an hour and a half before the final groups and then waited to see if anyone would better his score. Many tried but each failed to equal Owen’s 279.
“It’s just a crazy game,” said Owen of the train wreck finish. “I’m delighted. This was unexpected. These final holes can just come up and grab you.”
When the dust settled in southern Indiana, Owen collected a first-place check for $108,000 and Ryan Armour (68) and third-round leader Mark Hubbard (75) were tied for second, one shot back. Fabian Gomez (70), Justin Thomas (71), Matt Weibring (72) and Tony Finau (74) shared fourth place, two shots behind. Henrik Norlander ( 70) and Andres Echavarria (74) were three off the pace.
Owen started the final round at 4-under par and seven strokes off the lead being set by Hubbard, a 25-year old rookie out of San Jose, CA. After a lost ball on the opening hole and a triple bogey-7, Owen was 10 behind.
“I got off to the worst start I’ve ever had on a golf course and I was thinking it was going to be a very long day at that point,” said Owen. “I was pretty low and thought that if I could get back to even par for the day I’d be doing pretty good. I could have easily given up and shot 80 but that’s not me and that’s not how I was brought up. I was proud of myself for hanging in there.”
Owen turned the tables on a season that has seen him play well but not score well. He didn’t have his best game Sunday, but he scored well. His 67 was the low round on a day when the scoring average was two full strokes above par (74.054).
“I have not felt in control of game this year and then all of a sudden things turn around,” he said.
Owen dropped in a couple of birdies at Nos. 6 and 7 and then caught fire on the back nine. The transplanted Floridian rolled in five birdies and an eagle and reached double digits under par to put pressure on the contenders.
“Finally my putter was feeling good,” said the winner. “If the putter feels good I figure I’ve got a chance to do well.”
Owen canned putts from near and far and then settled in to see where he’d finish in the standings.
“I was thinking 10 (under) was a good score and so I was expecting to maybe get into a playoff, at best,” he said. “Things happen and this game is all about momentum.”
Over the final 75 minutes of play, the final threesome of Hubbard, Finau and Echavarria took turns grabbing the lead and then taking it back from each other. Up ahead, Armour closed with a bogey to come up one short of Owen and Weibring finished bogey-bogey and wound up two back.
Echavarria was 10-under and leading by one despite barely missing birdie putts at 15 and 16. The wheels came off on the final two holes when his tee shot at No. 17 hopped left and into a hazard, resulting in a double bogey. The 26-year old from Colombia then pushed a drive into the water that guards the right side of the 18th hole and made another double bogey, which dropped him into the tie for eighth place.
Finau also missed a birdie chance at the par-3, 16th but was still at 9-under and tied for the lead. He closed with a bogey-bogey finish.
Hubbard’s birdie putts at 15, 16 and 17 all burned the edge of the cup but none would fall, leaving him tied with Owen and standing on the 72nd tee.
The 18th, a dogleg right measuring 432 yards looks simple enough but produced a scoring average of 4.404, making it the toughest of the week and third-toughest on Tour this year.
Hubbard needed birdie to win and a par to force a playoff with Owen. Instead, his second shot from the fairway came up short, as did his pitch. A final 10-footer for par missed, leaving Owen with the win.
“It’s been a long time,” said Owen. “I’ve had back surgery and changed continents. You always wonder where you are and how to compete these days. The game kicks you in the teeth so many times. If I could do anything else I wouldn’t be playing this game. It’s a tough sport but only one of 156 can do this each week so it feels very special to be holding this trophy.”
FOURTH ROUND NOTES:
* Sunday weather: Mostly cloudy. Wind SW 7-15 mph. Overnight low of 74. Daytime high of 84.
* Greg Owen earns his first Web.com Tour title in his 48th career start. His previous best finishes were a pair of runner-up efforts in 2008 in Georgia – Athens Regional Foundation Classic, South Georgia Classic.
* Owen’s win comes at the age of 42 years, 4 months and 10 days.
* Owen’s victory is his first since winning the European Tour’s British Masters in early June 2003.
* Owen picked up a check for $108,000 and jumped from No. 88 to No. 13 on the Web.com Tour money list with $134,867.
* Owen’s seven-stroke come-from-behind win matches the largest on the Web.com Tour this year – Kris Blanks/Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
* Owen’s comeback also bettered Ben Martin’s tournament-record, five-shot come-from-behind win in 2013.
* Owen becomes the 10th first-time winner in 13 Tour events this year.
* Owen becomes the second player in the tournament’s three-year run to make this event his first career win (Ben Martin, 2013).
* Owen had made one cut in three previous starts on Tour this year – a T4 at the South Georgia Classic.
* Owen is conditional member of the PGA TOUR in 2014 and has made six cuts in eight starts. His best finish is a T24 at the Puerto Rico Open and he entered the week No. 197 in the FedExCup standings.
* Owen is in his eighth season as a member of the PGA TOUR. He has 201 career starts and his best finish is a runner-up effort at the 2006 Bay Hill Invitational.
* Ryan Armour’s T2 finish matches his career-best on the Web.com Tour. He also tied for second three other times – 2005 Jacob’s Creek Open Championship, 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open, 2012 Panama Claro Championship.
* Armour now has three consecutive top-5 finishes on Tour:
T4 Cleveland Open
T5 Air Capital Classic
T2 United Leasing Championship
* Armour’s payday of $52,800 moved him up from No. 23 to No. 12 on the money list with $139,033.
* Mark Hubbard’s T2 finish is his sixth top-10 in 13 starts this year. His previous best was a T8 at the Panama Claro Championship. Hubbard moved up from No. 20 to No. 11 on the money list.
* Justin Thomas’ T4 finish is his fourth top-10 in 11 starts this season. The Goshen, KY, resident remains at No. 7 on the money list with $192,456.
* Tony Finau’s T4 effort this week is his second top-10 and seventh top-25 finish in 13 starts. Finau earned enough ($23,625) to break into the top-25 on the money list at No. 24.
* Albin Choi ran off a series of four consecutive birdies to close the back nine early Sunday. Choi was 1-under to begin play and started his round at No. 10. He chalked up birdies at Nos. 15-18 and finished with a 1-under 71 (T19). Choi set a tournament record with five consecutive birdies (Nos. 2-6) in Friday’s second round.
* Roger Sloan was in the final group on Friday afternoon and birdied his final two holes (Nos. 8 & 9) as darkness fell and made the 36-hole cut on the number (+1). Sloan carded weekend scores of 69-72 and wound up T19.
* Low rounds of the day:
67 – Greg Owen
68 – Ryan Armour, Derek Fathauer
* Scoring averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (36) Total (72)
R1 36.942 36.897 73.839
R2 35.860 36.427 72.287
R3 35.770 36.311 72.081
R4 36.730 37.324 74.054
TOT 36.358 36.715 73.073
NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour travels to Canada for the inaugural Nova Scotia Open. The tournament will be played at Ashburn Golf Club (June 30-July 6), which is just outside of Halifax.
FINAL GOLF LEADERBOARD
1. Greg Owen 279 (-9)
2. Ryan Armour 280 (-8)
2. Mark Hubbard 280 (-8)
4. Fabian Gomez 281 (-7)
4. Justin Thomas 281 (-7)
4. Matt Weibring 281 (-7)
4. Tony Finau 281 (-7)
Source: PGA Tour