JUSTIN THOMAS WINS IN PLAYOFF
Columbus, OH – Justin Thomas sank a three-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Richard Sterne and claim the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at the Ohio State University Golf Course Scarlet Course. The pair each finished with 72-hole totals of 6-under-par 278.
Thomas, who grew up in the Louisville, Ky., area and attended the University of Alabama, sealed his victory after hitting a wedge from 75 yards to three feet and then draining his putt for his first professional victory in just his 20th start on the Web.com Tour. He earned $180,000 with the win.
Sean O’Hair matched the day’s best round with a 4-under 67, which moved him into a tie for third place with Korea’s Whee Kim. The two finished at 5-under and one shot out of the playoff. Veteran J.J. Henry also carded a 67 on Sunday, good for solo fifth place.
Things looked bleak late on the back nine for Thomas, who trailed Sterne by three strokes with three holes remaining.
However, Sterne, playing in the final and behind Thomas, was unable to build on his lead after making an eagle at No. 12 to go up by three strokes. Minutes later, things started to go awry for the 32-year old South African when he three-putted No. 15 for bogey and then made consecutive bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 to fall back into a tie with Thomas. He was then unable to birdie No. 18.
“I don't really feel much right now. Everything is pretty numb. It's crazy,” said Thomas. “I feel like of all the chances I had, it's crazy how this one kind of worked out, but sometimes that's how it happens. I believe everything happens for a reason and it just happened to be my week. So I'm pumped.”
For Thomas, the win was extra special since he had both his parents and grandparents following him on Sunday. The former reside in Columbus.
“I just tried to stay patient today and you have to do that here. I don’t want to say it’s a relief to win, but it’s hard to win with the level of play out here,” Thomas continued.
Was it the biggest win of his career?
“Yes, I would. Any time you win, it’s tremendous. It’s a tremendous honor. It means you’re the best that week and you beat everybody you played against. It’s a really cool feeling and it’s tough because it doesn’t happen very often, especially in professional golf.”
It was a particularly frustrating finish for Sterne who appeared in the driver’s seat for his first U.S. victory. But perhaps playing the last 10 consecutive weeks may have caught up with him.
“I struggled all day to roll the 30, 40 footers up close and I came up short couple times. I thought this time just give it a little bit more and it rolled on five, six feet past (on No. 15),” said Sterne. That was the first short putt I missed all day. I had putted well up until then, and I hit a bad tee shot on 16 and it really left me with no shot. So, I had to take my medicine there and try and up-and-down it. Then I hit a bad tee shot on 17 and unfortunately, it's a bad shot at the wrong time and that's -- when you're playing at this level, it can bite you.”
Sterne will forego competing in next week’s Web.com Tour Championship at Dye’s Valley Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, instead opting to return home to South Africa on Monday.
It will be a different story for Thomas. He’ll head to Jacksonville where he’ll try to improve on his current status on the priority list. He is currently fourth.
* Sunday weather: Partly cloudy. Wind light and variable. High of 69.
* Today’s scoring average of 73.077 (par-71) is the third-highest in relation to par on Tour this year. Three of the four rounds this week rank among the top-6 in 2014: OSU (Scarlet Course) 73.754 +2.754 R3 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Champ. Panama Golf Club 72.090 +2.090 R1 Panama Claro Championship OSU (Scarlet Course) 73.077 +2.077 R4 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Champ. Victoria National Golf Club 72.054 +2.054 R4 United Leasing Championship Ashburn Golf Club 72.012 +2.012 R3 Nova Scotia Open OSU (Scarlet Course) 72.975 +1.975 R2 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Champ.
* This week’s scoring average of 72.590 is the highest (in relation to par) on Tour this year: Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship 71 72.590 +1.590 Panama Claro Championship 70 71.106 +1.106 United Leasing Championship 72 73.073 +1.073
* Today’s playoff was the third in tournament history and the second in three years: 2009: Derek Lamely def. Rickie Fowler with a par-3 on the second extra hole (#13) 2012: Ben Kohles def. Luke Guthrie with a birdie-3 on the first extra hole (#18) 2014: Justin Thomas def. Richard Sterne with a birdie-3 on the first extra hole (#18)
* Today’s playoff was the fifth of the 2014 Web.com Tour season: Chitimacha Louisiana Open – Kris Blanks def. Brett Stegmaier with a birdie-3 on the 3rd extra hole (#18) Cleveland Open – Steven Alker def. Dawie van der Walt with a birdie-3 on the 11th extra hole (#18) Nova Scotia Open – Roger Sloan def. Derek Fathauer with a par-4 on the 1st extra hole (#18) Albertsons Boise Open – Steve Wheatcroft def. Steven Alker with a birdie-3 on the 1st extra hole (#18) Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship – Justin Thomas def. Richard Sterne with a birdie-3 on the 1st extra hole (#18)
* Justin Thomas earns his first win in his 20th career start and his 19th start this year.
* Thomas picks up a check for $180,000 and moves to No. 3 on the Web.com Tour season money list with $470,470. He trails money leader Carlos Ortiz by $44,933 heading into next week’s Tour Championship.
* Thomas was already assured of a spot on the 2014-15 PGA TOUR but his victory today also comes with a sponsor exemption into The Memorial Tournament June 4-7, 2015 at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
* Thomas moves to No. 4 in the Finals Priority Ranking with only one event left.
* Thomas collects his first win at the age of 21 years, 4 months and 16 days. He is the youngest winner on Tour this year and the fourth-youngest in Web.com Tour history:
19 years, 7 months, 26 days, 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic
20 years, 11 months, 15 days, 2013 Colombia Championship
21 years, 2 months, 8 days, 2011 WNB Golf Classic
21 years, 4 months, 16 days, 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship
21 years, 5 months, 27 days, 2003 Mark Christopher Charity Classic
21 years, 8 months, 12 days, 2005 Jacob’s Creek Open Championship
21 years, 9 months, 1993 Wichita Open
21 years, 11 months, 1993 Tour Championship
* Thomas becomes the 15th first-time winner on Tour in 24 events this year.
* Thomas becomes the sixth rookie to win on Tour this year – Jon Curran, Carlos Ortiz (3), Max Homa, Sebastian Cappelen, Tony Finau.
* Thomas adds a win to an already impressive list of top-10 finishes this year. The victory gives him finishes this year from first to sixth place: 1st – Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship 2nd – El Bosque Mexico Championship 3rd – Albertsons Boise Open T4 – United Leasing Championship T5 – Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship T6 – Price Cutter Charity Championship
* Thomas has made the cut in 17 of 19 starts this year.
* Thomas’ final-round 70 marked the 14th time in 15 tries that he has broken par in the fourth round this year. The only time Thomas did not post a sub-par score in the fourth round was at the TPC Stonebrae Championship, where he carded a 1-over 71.
* Thomas has played 71 rounds this year and only six have been above par. His highest score of the year, a 4-over 76, came in the third round of the Hotel Fitness Championship two weeks ago.
* Thomas has posted consecutive above-par scores only one time this year. He shot back-to-back 1-over 71’s in the third and fourth rounds of the Stonebrae Classic.
* Richard Sterne collected a runner-up check for $108,000 and guarantees himself a spot on the 2014-15 PGA TOUR, which begins next month. Sterne has been a regular member of the European Tour since 2003. He has eight international wins including three on the European Tour.
* Sterne missed the cut at the Hotel Fitness Championship and was T41 at last week’s Chiquita Classic.
* Sterne came into the week as the highest-ranked player in the field according to the Official World Golf Rankings (#82). He was one of five players ranked in the top-150.
* Sterne was born in Pretoria, South Africa and still lives in Stellenbosch, Cape Town.
* Sterne has made 25 cuts in 35 PGA TOUR events since 2006. He was 6-of-7 this year with a T17 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and a T4 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
* Sterne is headed back to South Africa and will not compete in next week’s Web.com Tour Championship. He plans to take a couple of weeks off before starting preparations for the Dunhill Cup.
* Sean O’Hair missed the cut in his two previous starts of the Web.com Tour Finals – Hotel Fitness Championship and last week’s Chiquita Classic. His T3 finish this week was worth $58,000 and will earn him a return trip to the PGA TOUR for 2014-15. He is currently No. 23 on the Finals Priority Ranking.
* O’Hair played in the Web.com Tour Finals last year after finishing the regular season No. 170 on the FedExCup rankings. He regained his PGA TOUR card for the 2013-14 season after finishing No. 16 in the Finals Priority Ranking, thanks to a T11 at the Hotel Fitness Championship, a T17 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and a T8 at the Tour Championship.
* O’Hair made the cut in 14 of 25 starts on the 2013-14 PGA TOUR but had only one top-10 finish – a T10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Down the stretch, O’Hair made only seven cuts in his last 14 starts and his best finish over that period was a T43 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He ended the regular season No. 160 in the FedEx Cup standings.
* O’Hair has been a full-time member of the PGA TOUR since 2005 and has made 255 career starts. He is a four-time winner on TOUR – 2005 John Deere Classic, 2008 PODS Championship, 2009 Quail Hollow Championship, 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
* Whee Kim rolled in a long birdie putt on the final hole Sunday for a 2-under 69 and a tie for third place. The 22-year old from Korea collected a check for $58,000 and assured himself a spot on the 2014-15 PGA TOUR. Kim moved up to No. 19 on the Finals Priority Ranking. Kim has never made a start on the PGA TOUR.
Additional player notes:
* Tony Finau celebrated his 25th birthday Sunday with an even-par 71. Finau, winner of the Stonebrae Classic, tied for sixth place this week. He is now No. 12 on the Priority Ranking.
* J.J. Henry fired a bogey-free, 4-under 67 today to finish at 4-under 280. His solo fifth-place finish was worth $40,000 and put him in prime position to regain his PGA TOUR card for the 2014-15 season. Henry made 18 cuts in 28 starts on TOUR this year but his best finish was a T13 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He ended the regular season No. 128 on the FedExCup standings.
* Henry has been a full-time member of the TOUR since 2001 and has 413 career starts. He is a two-time winner – 2006 Buick Championship, 2012 Reno-Tahoe Open – and played on the United States’ 2006 Ryder Cup team.
* Henry’s 5th-place finish today is his first top-10 since a T7 at the 2013 John Deere Classic.
* Patrick Rodgers fired a 2-under 69 to finish T8 this week. His check for $30,000 puts him No. 50 on the Finals Priority Ranking heading into next week’s finale at the Tour Championship.
* Rodgers, a former Stanford All-America, has been troubled by a bad back of late which forced him to withdraw prior to the start of the Hotel Fitness Championship. He missed the cut at last week’s Chiquita Classic but rounds of 70-70-73-69—280 have him encouraged.
“My back is getting better every week. Last week I tried to give it a go and maybe I shouldn’t have,” he said. “There’s still some pain when I’m swinging my driver but it’s not anything I can’t play through.”
Rodgers’ first Tour-sanctioned start came in this event in 2012 when top college players received sponsor exemptions. He posted scores of 76-73 and missed the cut. His Cardinal team also played on this course in the 2013 NCAA Regional.
“That (Regional) was one of my more disappointing moments in college because our team missed it,” said Rodgers. “That gave me even more motivation this week. Hopefully I can keep building on this week.”
* Rodgers turned pro earlier this year after a stellar career at Stanford University, where he tied Tiger Woods’ school record of 11 victories. Rodgers left Stanford after three seasons. He played in seven PGA TOUR events and earned enough to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals. Rodgers hails from the Indianapolis area (Avon, IN).
* Adam Hadwin birdied his final two holes Sunday for an even-par 70 and a T10 finish. With that, Hadwin moved to the No. 1 spot on the Finals Priority Ranking. Hadwin, winner of last week’s Chiquita Classic, is atop the standings with $206,000. He is first on the list by virtue of making two cuts in three Finals starts. Hotel Fitness Championship winner Bud Cauley missed the cut at last week’s Chiquita Classic and did not play this week so he has $180,000.
* Sam Saunders continued his solid play in the Finals with a T12 finish this week. Saunders tied for fourth at the Hotel Fitness Championship and was T11 at last week’s Chiquita Classic. He is now No. 13 on the Finals Priority Ranking.
* Best rounds of the day: 67 – J.J. Henry, Sean O’Hair 68 – Tom Gillis, Sam Saunders 69 – Jason Gore, Whee Kim, Patrick Rodgers
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (35) Total (71)
R1 36.087 35.278 71.365
R2 36.803 36.172 72.975
R3 36.969 36.785 73.754
R4 37.062 36.015 73.077
Total 36.638 35,952 72.590