Argentine Fabian Gomez fired a closing round four-under-par 66 to post 13-under-par 267 to defeat Englishman Greg Owen by four shots to win on TOUR for the first time at the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind outside Memphis. American Phil Mickelson was one of a quintet who finished T3 one further shot behind.
Co-54-hole leader Gomez steamrolled his playing partner Owen in the final group of the day by posting five birdies against just one bogey to secure his first victory on TOUR. His longest putt on the front nine was only 29 feet and seven were from 17 feet or closer. He kept his golf ball out of trouble and birdies on two of his last three holes made for an uneventful Sunday as he comfortably won.
Gomez shared the 54-hole lead with Owen but after bogeys Nos. 9, 12 and 14 Owen's challenge was all but done and dusted. Without any pressure from the groups on the course, Gomez knew fairways and greens would secure the trophy. His 66 was the second-lowest total on Sunday and plenty enough to see him raise the trophy.
Since the redesign in 2004, TPC Southwind has proven that bogey avoidance and plenty of pars is the recipe to success. This week weather was not a factor and the tee times rolled on as scheduled. Players weren't forced to finish rounds the next morning and play extended long days in the normal humidity that is the recipe this time of year.
Heading into the U.S. Open, the FESJC doesn't always brag they have the heaviest of hitters in the field but projecting this tournament has never been easy. This week was more proof of that evidenced by the winner and runner-up. Dustin Johnson burned too many fantasy owners to count but Billy Horschel and Mickelson painted the form sheet to a T, minus winning outright. With Harris English, Ben Crane and now Gomez winning in the last three years, I'm open to ANY and ALL theories in this event moving forward!
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise:
When players on this level make a ton of birdies (20, T2) and avoid making a bunch of bogeys (seven, T2) usually good things happen. Gomez is more accurate than he is long and that has been a signature trait of winners since 2004. He was in the top 30 in birdie average and birdie or better conversion percentage. Gomez won twice on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica in 2013 and 2014 at the Personal Classic in his native Argentina. He probably had the best pairing on Sunday as his playing partner had played over 200 TOUR events without a win so he wasn't going to be bothered about that.
Why This Performance Surprises:
In 13 previous events in 2015 Gomez had never cracked the top 30 let alone been in contention to win. His last six rounds on TOUR resulted in all six rounds at 70 or better but the results of T27-MC hardly inspired. In his previous two tries at TPC Southwind he only put two rounds in the 60s and that resulted in T15 in 2011. This week he broke 70 in all four rounds, just one of three players to lay claim to that stat. This was his 70th event on TOUR and his fourth top 10 and 10th top 25 so there a very salient reason why the 36-year old wasn't on the radar this week. Gomez entered the week No. 283 on the OWGR and even this victory will not qualify him for the U.S. Open next week at Chambers Bay.
How Gomez Won This Week:
He made 20 birdies (T2) and seven bogeys (T2) and didn't have any "others" to worry about.
He was T1 strokes gained: total and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
He played all four rounds at par or better with all being 68 or better.
Even though he was in the bottom half of fairways hit (T43) he was T8 in GIR and fourth in putts per GIR. Hitting fairways is the strength of his game!
It didn't hurt that he only found two green-side bunkers for the week and made on Sandy Duncan. Whatever.
He kept his ball in play, out of trouble and on the greens. That never hurts!
As listed above this is rarefied air for Gomez on this level. Sure he won twice on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Tour but they were both in the same even on the same course. He also won on the web.com in 2011 and has five-runner up finishes. His best finish on TOUR was T2 with Jordan Spieth at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open. Based on the above there's not much that pushing me to jump on that train. He had a very nice week in an otherwise quiet year. If he sparks it from here on out and starts racking up top 10s, I'll gladly reevaluate. Until then, he goes right back into the hopper.
With This Win:
For the second week in a row a player in the 200s in the OWGR picks up the hardware. Gomez will, like Lingmerth and the rest of them, have two years of status to collect as many checks and starts as possible. He's in the PGA Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational but he didn't make up enough ground to play the U.S. Open next week.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA has now seen the world claim the biggest check on TOUR for three weeks in a row.
Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb, Ben Martin, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn (born in Korea; US citizen), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Matt Every, Walker again, J.B. Holmes, Spieth again, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler and Chris Kirk are the USA champs.
Alex Cejka (Germany), Paddy Harrington (Ireland), Sangmoon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada), Jason Day (Australia), Justin Rose (England), McIlroy times two (Northern Ireland), Steven Bowditch (Australia), David Lingmerth (Sweden) and Gomez (Argentina) are the 10 international winners in 31 events. It’s quite the global game in the sense that nine of those winners have come from nine different countries: Germany, Ireland, Korea, Canada, Australia twice, England, Northern Ireland (same guy twice), Sweden and Argentina.
Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore, Walker and Spieth have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker, Spieth and Kirk are the only persons on BOTH sides of this list; Walker couldn’t close out at HTOC but came back and won the following week at Sony. Spieth, who was 0-4 with the 54-hole lead in his career on TOUR, couldn’t hold out at SHO before winning the Masters. Kirk couldn’t close his 54-hole lead at THE PLAYERS but had no trouble coming off the pace at Colonial. Rose adds his name to this list as his three-shot lead evaporated. Gomez makes it only 11 players in 30 events (no 54-hole leader at WGC-Match Play) have finished the job. Remember, with co-54-hole leaders I give the benefit of the doubt to the winner! Hey, it's MY GAME!
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 31 events in 2015 Gomez joins Lingmerth, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Koepka, Hahn and Cejka on breaking through. That's two in a row, gang!
Next year I'm putting all guys who are in their mid-30s in my lineup at FESJC after Gomez and Ben Crane have won the last two.
Gomez joins Harrison Frazar (2011) and Harris English (2013) as the only players to break their TOUR maiden at TPC Southwind since 1994. That's three of the last six and those coming in odd years. #AstrologyNumerologyGuessWork
Since the renovation in 2004, no player has defended their title. Crane opened with 66 and closed with 68 but 74-70 in the middle saw him eventually finish T37.
Justin Leonard remains the only multiple winner (2005 & 2007) since the 2004 redesign. He MC this week 70-73.
The course record 62 was never in doubt as 64 was as low as they could go this week.
Brian Gay's tournament record 261 wasn't bothered either as Gomez posted 267.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist. GET OFF MY VIAGRA.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 at SFC. Reed joined the party at a whopping 24 at HTOC followed by Koepka, 25 in Phoenix and Jason Day, 27, at Torrey Pines. Spieth, who turns 22 on 29 July, has won at Valspar and Augusta. McIlroy turned 26 on Monday, May 4. Fowler, 26, and McIlroy won again at Quail Hollow. Lingmerth, the winner at Memorial, turns 28 in July. The youngsters have 12 winners in 31 events this year.
Dustin Johnson (30), James Hahn (33), Brandt Snedeker (34),Bill Haas (32), Jimmy Walker TWICE (36), Charley Hoffman (37), Bubba Watson (36), Ryan Moore (31), Matt Every (31), J.B. Holmes (32),Justin Rose (34), Chris Kirk (30), Steven Bowditch (31) and Gomez, 36, are the prime time guys with silverware (30-39 years).
The old guys (40-and-over) have Jim Furyk, Paddy Harrington and Alex Cejka as representatives in their smallish club in 2015. To nobody's surprise Mickelson continued his excellent Memphis record with his second podium finish (T3) in three years. His T11 last year is his worst "effort" since making his return the week before the U.S. Open.
What I learned from the finishers INSIDE the top 10 this week.
Greg Owen: Stop me if you've heard this one before: He made only two bogeys in his first 54 holes to find himself in the final group on Sunday. He made three bogeys on Sunday and couldn't close the deal. Those five bogeys were the least on the week but the three on Sunday never let him put any pressure on his peer, Gomez. He was second in GIR, fourth in pars made and fifth in SGP. This one is going to sting as the 43-year old wasn't exactly facing down Gary Player this week in search of his first win as well. He's now played here in five of the last six years and has made the cut in three of his last four. He was T11 in 2012 and T60 last year. This was his first top 10 on TOUR since 2012 at the McGladrey.
Phil Mickelson: Posted all four rounds at par or better and closed with the co-low round of the day, 65, to hit the podium again at TPC Southwind. His closing round moved him up 16 spots. Mickelson is continuing to prove the theory that he is going to excel on courses where he's previous done the business in 2015. He was second at Augusta, fourth at Quail Hollow and T3 this week. His ball-striking didn't turn any heads but his putter counted when it needed to as he was seventh in SGP. This performance is exactly what I needed to see to reinforce my belief that he will be a factor, again, at the U.S. Open next week.
Seung-Yul Noh: After making the cut on the number the South Korean took full advantage and posted 66-65 on the weekend to share third. Since his win last April at Zurich, Noh has racked up exactly four top 25s and one top 10 so this was hardly expected. Even those studious course horses would have had to dig back to his maiden voyage here in 2012 to find his T7. He MC in his last visit in 2013. He MC/WD in five of eight leading into this week so I've learned that he enjoys playing tournaments adjacent to or in the general region of the Mississippi River. Whatever. He led the field in GIR. He entered the week No. 134 in GIR. Whatever.
Michael Thompson: He played his college golf at Tulane before transferring to Alabama after Hurricane Katrina. Tulane is in New Orleans. So is the Mississippi River. He came home in 30 on Sunday including playing his last six holes in five under to bang his first top 10 since last year at Colonial. He posted two top 25s after that win before this week. Two. Whatever.
Matt Jones: He's never made the weekend here in his first three tries so it's no wonder why he was T3 this week. Hell, at least Jones made three cuts in a row leading into this week to flash some form! Along with Gomez and Thompson, Jones was one of the three who carded all four rounds in the 60s this week. He's made 13 of 15 cuts this calendar year and this is his third top 10. Of the 75 players to make the cut, Jones was T66 in fairways but still found 71% GIR (T5). He was second in SGP.
Brooks Koepka: He backed up his T19 in his maiden voyage last year with a T3 this year thanks to a closing birdie. Gamers will remind me that he was nine-under after two rounds and T3 was eight-under. Like Jones, he saw the entire course off the tee box (T66) but was T3 GIR and fourth SGP. I learned that one bad round doesn't bother him (78 to close at Memorial) and it shouldn't bother gamers either. This was his third T17 or better in his last five. Gamers should hardly be surprised.
Boo Weekley: His bogey-free 65 was the best on both accounts and the veteran ball-striker used that round to move up 22 spots to T8. This was his ninth trip in a row to Memphis and his six weekend on the bounce. Only one of those prior starts resulted in a finish inside the top 27 and that was T4 in 2008. Weekley had played five of the last six and his solo third at Zurich, a tournament played in a city near the Mississippi River, was his best in that run. That's now five top 10s this season for Weekley.
Billy Horschel: The roller coaster ride was tough to watch but a pleasure to see end up in the top 10 (T8) this week. His closing 65 was in part to an eagle-par-birdie finish, as like Weekley, moved him up 22 spots. Whew. He was my OAD. I needed that. His ball-striking numbers separately were nothing to write about but he ended the week seventh in SGTTG. Whew.
Russell Knox: Speaking of roller coaster, Knox opened with 70 and then rattled off six birds on Friday without a bogey for 64. His 73 on Saturday set him up for his traditional T17 to T45 finish but 66 on Sunday saw him hit the top 10 for this first time since T3 at Honda. Make that seven weekends in row and four of the last five have been T24 or better. He should be an automatic in DFS games if he's in the field. I'd point out that he had one round in the 60s in three previous attempts (MC-74-MC) but course form isn't everything in life. Pro gamers will attest to this.
Chad Campbell: His T8 makes five cuts in the last five seasons here and his second top 10 in his last four. It's hardly a surprise that he painted fairways and greens but his putter gained him almost four strokes on the field. His last top 10 was T8 at the Zurich Classic on a course near the Mississippi River...THIS IS A RECORDING. Wanna guess what courses are some of the easiest to putt on TOUR? Go ahead, you can do it!
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Dustin Johnson: Well, that happened. He WD with illness after the front nine on Thursday. He made six pars in a row before quitting after opening bogey-bogey-bogey. Gamers should remember that he gets the weekend off to get healthy for the U.S. Open. The other gamers that had him in OAD and any other game may sling all the arrows they see fit.
Billy Horschel: T8, see above.
Webb Simpson: If only the game was played on paper. He made five birdies in two rounds. He made five bogeys and a double on Friday to shoot 75 and MC. He hit less than 50% GIR for the week. Wow. He's been unexplainably inconsistent since the beginning of last spring. Gamers beware if you haven't already. He should have the short putter figured out by now.
Ryan Palmer: He opened with 64 and then failed to break 70 in the final three rounds. He began Sunday T7 and there weren't many heavy hitters in front of him. His bogey-bogey-double to open the inward nine holes sunk any chances of a return to the top 10 for the third time in four years (T22). It's now four years in a row of T32 or better here so it's obvious he's in the lineup annually.
Phil Mickelson: T3, job done.
Brooks Koepka: T8, see above.
George McNeill: Make it 15 cuts in 16 events. T29. Free money.
Jerry Kelly: His track record here was four from his last four but nothing better than T32. He MC this week was his first in six events.
Harris English: He was four-under heading into the weekend and then threw a clunker, 75, to kill any momentum. He and Simpson could vie for the department of the inconsistency department award for the first six months of 2015.
Graeme McDowell: He three putted five times on Thursday. McDowell hasn't done anything to fill the consistent part of being inconsistent, sadly, for season-long and weekly gamers.
Brian Harman: T44-T8-MC-T10-T39-MC shows you what qualified as "chalk" this week.
Jamie Donaldson: I theorized that playing two difficult, ball-striking layouts (TPC Sawgrass, Wentworth) his last two times out would help him. I'm having a hard time finding anything in 73-77 that would help. He's also playing a course next week he's never played before at Chambers Bay...
Russell Knox: T8, see above.
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.