Feb
27
2011
Wagner Returns From Two-Year Vacation, Wins Playoff in Mexico
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

With the Match Play Championship happening, I doubt many of you cared about the results of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the opposite field event — of course, unless you’re related to or friends with Johnson Wagner and/or Spencer Levin (pronounced Levine, by the way!).

I think it’s important to note that WUP Head Researcher Kevin Ryan (aka Intern Kevin) was Johnson’s first caddie at the qualifier for the ’95 US Junior Amateur, which Johnson made after winning a three-hole playoff. Because of Intern Kevin’s friendship with Johnson, I actually started leaderboard-watching on Sunday afternoon and I might have tuned in if the telecast hadn’t been on tape delay. PGATour.com scoring was also on some sort of delay due to technical difficulties, but guess what saved the day? Twitter!

Johnson, who won the ’08 Shell Houston Open, and Levin both finished at 17-under, besting the rest of the field by three shots. On the first playoff hole, the par-4 No. 18, Levin hit a stray drive into the fairway bunker and posted a bogey. Johnson made par to win.

I haven’t really had time to think about it, but I’m just beside myself excited,” said Wagner. “I’ve been working really hard, and it’s just nice to see — it’s nice to see stuff pay off when you work hard, and it shows. It makes you want to work even harder.”

Johnson finished 126th on the money list last year to lose his card. He collected a two-year exemption after his win in Houston, but drifted away from leaderboards pretty much until the Children’s Miracle Network Classic where he finished T3. Had he placed solo third, he would have earned enough money to keep his card.

Interestingly enough, Wagner said on Saturday that he put more pressure on himself the past two years when he was exempt. He implied this year his unstable schedule made him take the pressure off — it’s normally the other way around, right?

Johnson dropped in a six-footer for par to get in the playoff and admitted to feeling “very nervous.”

“It was an easy putt, and under the circumstances it was a little harder,” said Johnson. “But I had a good read, and I just wanted to make the best stroke I could. If it goes in, great; if not, whatever. And fortunately it went in. But I was pretty nervous and I was pretty excited to see it drop.”

Johnson had nice words for Levin, who shot 65 in the final round.

“Spence and I have played a couple rounds together competitively and a few practice rounds,” said Johnson. “Spencer is one of my favorite guys out here. He’s played great this year. He’s just a real emotional guy, real great player, gets a lot out of his game. Spence is one of the best guys out here, always wanting to chat and seems to be in a pretty good mood. He’s a good man.”

Levin has played in seven events in a row and he’s scheduled to make it eight with another start at the Honda Classic (at least his name is on the preliminary field list). Besides this week, his best finishes were T4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and T12 at the Northern Trust Open.

With the win, Johnson no longer has to try his luck at the Monday Qualifier for the Honda, which he will enter. Congrats!

*P.S. I’m joking abut the two-year vacation. He was just very quiet since he won in Houston.