David Mathis, a 36-year-old native of Winston-Salem, N.C., carded a final-round 1-under 69 on Sunday at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass to win the inaugural Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open by one stroke over Won Joon Lee (66), Jeff Curl (69) and Kyle Reifers (69).
“I love it,” said Mathis, who posted his previous Nationwide Tour victory at the 2008 BMW Charity Pro-Am. “I’m so thankful to win again.”
Mathis began the day trailing third-round leader Jon Mills by three strokes. But while Mills struggled to a final-round 4-over 76, Mathis was methodically moving out to a comfortable three-stroke lead at one point. Things changed quickly, however, as Mathis bogeyed No. 14 and doubled the par-5 16th hole to open the door for several challengers and set up a typical Sunday shootout on the Nationwide Tour.
“I was actually very comfortable on the front nine, but that is because I was chasing,” said Mathis, who hit all 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday. “I was happy to have that 150-yard walk from the 16th green to the 17th tee box. I beat myself up pretty good, but refocused for the last two holes.”
Mathis went on to par the final two holes to finish at 8 under and then had to wait as several players -- including Curl, Reifers and Oppenheim -- attempted unsuccessfully to birdie the final hole to force a playoff.
“I was fortunate to win by a shot after making double on No. 16,” said Mathis, a business graduate from Campbell University. “But I knew I was still in it, I just needed to finish it off. All of those guys were capable of winning the tournament. But it (winning score) was good enough.”
With the victory, Mathis collected $108,000 and moved from No. 35 to No. 12 on the official money list. In the process, he stamped his ticket with 59 other players to Charleston, S.C., for next week’s season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island.
Mathis’ stellar play this week and subsequent lofty ranking on the official money list locks him in to finish among the 25 who will earn a coveted ticket to the 2011 PGA Tour. It will be the second go-around for Mathis on Tour, as he initially finished No. 160 on the 2009 money list with 12 made cuts in 27 starts.
“God has given me the chance to make a living out here,” said Mathis, who posted top-25 finishes in 2009 at the Wyndham Championship (tied for 17th) and the St. Jude Classic (tied for 23rd). “Some guys out here watch the money list like it is their daily bread. I’m thankful golf doesn’t define me as a person. I like playing golf for a living, but it isn’t who I am.”
While the winner’s circle on Sunday proved elusive for everyone not named Mathis, it was a profitable day for several of his nearest challengers. Seven of the top 10 players on the final leaderboard will tee it up at next week’s final event, including Mathis (1st, No. 12 on the money list), Won Joon Lee (tied for second, No. 33), Jeff Curl (tied for second, No. 54), Tag Ridings (tied for fifth, No. 14), Geoffrey Sisk (tied for fifth, No. 46), Jon Mills (tied for fifth, No. 28) and Rob Oppenheim (tied for fifth, No. 49).
Final-Round Notes: David Mathis’ 8-under winning score is the first single-digit winning score this season. … In 153 Nationwide Tour starts, Jon Mills (tied for fifth) is now 1 for 2 when carrying the 54-hole lead into the final round. In addition to his finish on Sunday, he carried the third-round lead on to victory at the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship. … The 54-hole leader/co-leader has carried that lead on to victory nine times in 27 attempts this season.
Nationwide Tour money leader Jamie Lovemark tied for 59th but maintained his hold on the top spot on the money list, with $421,784. Chris Kirk, who withdrew earlier this week with a wrist injury, is second on the list with $411,206. … Jeff Brehaut (No. 60) took the final spot for the 60-player Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island next week, while Patrick Sheehan (No. 61) was the odd man out. … Won Joon Lee followed up a tie for fourth at last week’s Miccosukee Championship with a runner-up finish this week. He has now posted second-place finishes the last three seasons on the Nationwide Tour (2008 Utah Championship, 2009 Miccosukee Championship, 2010 Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open). … Lee and Tag Ridings shared round of the day honors with matching 4-under 66s.
There were no bogey-free rounds on Sunday. … The par-4 eighth hole played the toughest this week with a 4.424 average. … The par-5 first hole played the easiest this week with a 4.741 average. … The cumulative scoring average at the par-70 Dye’s Valley Course was 70.925.