Battling tough and windy conditions at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday, Steven Bowditch held on to capture his first PGA Tour victory. Despite missing a three-footer on the last hole, the 30-year-old Australian had enough of a cushion to still win by a stroke over Will MacKenzie, who has finished 6th or better in three of his last four starts, and Daniel Summerhays.
Bowditch shot a final-round, four-over 76 — the highest non-major score by a winner since Fred Couples at the 1983 Kemper Open. But, who cares, a win is a win at the end of the day.
It wasn’t the prettiest golf in the world, but Bowditch found a way to get the ball in the hole, mostly with his phenomenal chipping.
“He has a phenomenal short game and he got super rewarded by chipping better than everyone else,” said Bowditch’s swing coach, Scott Hamilton, via phone. “He’s very giving when it comes to wedge play and teaching people how to use a lob wedge. He’s the king of using the bounce.”
Bowditch didn’t drive the ball especially well in the final round, but he was able to eliminate missing it left, which made the course set up better for him. When he hit an errant tee shot, it always went right, like on the 17th, where he had an opening to still reach the green in two.
“It didn’t feel like my golf game has really changed in the last two weeks,” said Bowditch in his post-round interview with Golf Channel. “I guess the golf course was just set up well for me.”
Added Hamilton: “He didn’t hit the quick lefts…Trackman has helped a lot with that (the one-way miss). We’ve shallowed out his angle of attack and made his swing direction more positive…”
Bowditch has come a long ways since the start of his pro career. He’s fought clinical depression, and at one point, he even tried to drown himself in 2006. His low points and perseverance has been well-documented, particularly in a Golf Digest piece by Jim Moriarity in 2009 — which I recommend you all read.
These days, Steven dreads talking about his depression, which is understandable. He doesn’t want to be the PGA Tour poster child for the illness. As he usually says in sum, it’s in the past, let’s move forward.
And that’s just what he’s done with his maiden victory in the U.S. — he’s earned a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, along with a coveted invitation to this year’s Masters.
Bowditch becomes the third Australian to win in the last six starts, joining Jason Day and John Senden. Interesting enough, Adam Scott isn’t part of the Aussie victory parade — the 2013 Masters champ had a four-shot lead heading into the final round last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but failed to seal the deal.
Speaking of the Masters, this was the last week to earn Official World Golf Ranking points and climb into the top 50. Only two players in the Texas Open field had a shot. Ryan Palmer needed a top 3 finish, but shot a 10-over 82 to finish T56th. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Open winner Chesson Hadley had to place in the top six and posted an eight-over 80 to also place T56th.
Hadley tweeted, “Oops!” following his round.
Stephen Gallacher, who didn’t make a start this week, was the only player to get into the Masters field through the OWGR Top-50 ranking. One last spot is available for next week’s Shell Houston Open champion (unless he’s already qualified).
In other news, slow play continues to make headlines and turn people off from watching pro golf (I can’t believe I stayed awake). The new face of the week for forcing people to cringe and fall asleep? Andrew Loupe.
Loupe was absolutely painful to watch and apparently he had improved tremendously from a day earlier. He played in the final group with Bowditch (yet another thing Steven had to conquer) and Matt Kuchar, who notched his 62nd top 10 of his career. At one point, Loupe was the only one on the clock, but soon after, Kuchar joined in on being timed by an official.
At least five players were put on the clock and times by rules officials in the final round of the Texas Open.
The only true solution to speed up play? Officials need to dole out penalty strokes.