D.J. Brigman trusted his gut Sunday. The 34-year-old New Mexico native figured he needed to get to 10 under par to have a chance to win the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. When early morning rains softened the famed Scarlet Course at Ohio State University, Brigman knew he could start firing at flags in an effort to make up some ground on leader Nick Flanagan and a host of challengers.
Brigman fired a 7-under 64 to reach 10 under par, good for a one-stroke victory and a big enough check that just might land him back on the PGA Tour in 2011.
Brigman collected $144,000 from the purse, vaulting him from No. 47 to No. 6 on the money list with 13 more tournaments to go.
“This is the best of the best,” said Brigman, whose first win came nearly seven years ago at the 2003 Permian Basin Open. “This reinforces that I’m on the right path and I questioned that for a long time.”
Brigman’s 10-under 274 total was one better than rookie Jamie Lovemark, who birdied the final hole for a 5-under 66 and sole possession of second place.
David Mathis, playing with Brigman, fired a 66 to reach 8 under and share third place with 2007 champion Daniel Summerhays (68), Won Joon Lee (69) and third-round leader Nick Flanagan (70).
William McGirt made some early noise during the rain-delayed final round, posting his own 64 for a 7-under total some two hours before the final groups. McGirt and rookie Trevor Murphy (67) tied for seventh place.
“I wasn’t thinking about winning,” said Brigman, who was tied for 11th before the round and four back of Flanagan, who stood at minus-7. “I knew if I could shoot a good number, I could really move up on the money list. It just kind of came together.”
It came together for Brigman with three consecutive birdies starting at No. 8, putting him at 7 under par and giving him a legitimate chance to win. While the golf course was playing a bit easier than it had the previous two days, the trio of Flanagan, Lee and Alistair Presnell (73/tied for 12th) had trouble gaining momentum.
“My goal going in was 10 under. I felt with the rain this morning and conditions being what they were, 10 under would be a good outcome,” said Brigman. “I had a hunch 10 under was going to be good. Double digits was going to be a good score, that’s what my gut was telling me. You’ve got to trust your gut.”
It helped that the former New Mexico Lobo was hitting plenty of fairways because lift, clean and place conditions were in effect. Morning rains dumped almost an inch of rain on the course that had begun to firm up as the week progressed.
“If you got it in the fairway, you have a really clean lie going in,” said Brigman, who hit 10 of 14. “That was huge. And I putted really well on top of it.”
Brigman made only one long birdie putt, a 35-footer at the par-3 13th hole that got him to 8 under and challenging Summerhays for the lead.
The 26-year-old Summerhays had taken the lead at 9 under with a flawless front nine and was looking to add a professional title to the one he captured here as an amateur in 2007.
“When I saw the rain and everything, I thought 10-under was going to be the number,” said Summerhays.
Back and forth they went.
Brigman rolled in back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 to become the first player to reach double digits during the week.
“I told my caddie on 18 that we should go get one more,” said Brigman, whose cousin Ted Vernon of Chicago had driven down to help for the week.
Brigman had to within 15 feet for birdie on the final hole, but there were still a dozen players behind him.
“I got over it and I looked at the board and saw that I had a two-shot lead and my mind changed focus from process to outcome,” he said. “I thought that I’d like to make it but I also didn’t want to leave myself something big coming back. It was a little bit of a wishy-washy putt.”
Fortunately, it didn’t matter.
Brigman went the range and waited to see if anyone could catch him and force a playoff. Summerhays birdied No. 16 to get within one.
“I knew I was close,” he said. “I knew I needed a bird on one of the last two. I gave myself two pretty good tries on 17 and 18. I’m happy with my finish. I’m a little disappointed, I thought today was the day. My day will come. D.J. played an incredible round but my day will come.”
Fourth-Round Notes: The start of the fourth round was delayed one hour due to morning rains that began around 8:30. The front moved through the area and the rain stopped around 10:15 and measured 0.83”. … The fourth round was played under Lift, Clean & Place conditions. … Sunday’s scoring average was 70.583. … Jamie Lovemark’s second-place finish was worth $86,400 and it moved the former Southern Cal All-America to No. 1 on the money list. Lovemark jumped from No. 4 to No. 1 with $338,701. He now has a victory (Mexico Open Bicentenary) and three runner-up finishes on his 2010 resume. He becomes the fifth different player to lead the money list through 16 events this season.
Tommy Gainey, who held the No. 1 spot for one week following his win at last week’s Chiquita Classic, finished tied for 12th and dropped to No. 2. He trails Lovemark by $15,434. … David Mathis moved from No. 41 to No. 23 on the money with his tie for third. … Daniel Summerhays jumped from No. 21 to No. 14 with his tie for thrd. … William McGirt moved from No. 27 to No. 22 with his tie for seventh. … Tag Ridings finished tied for ninth, his sixth top-10 of the season. Ridings is No. 7 on the money list now without a victory.
Rookie William McGirt, playing in the first group off the 10th tee, made a run up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64. After making the turn, McGirt and his playing partners were directly behind the lead group of the day (Nick Flanagan, Won Joon Lee and Alistair Presnell). McGirt’s 64 was a season-best by two strokes and vaulted him to a tie for seventh, his fourth top-10 of the year. “When you start that many back you know the chances are slim and none. You just come out here and fire at as many as you can and try to make as much as you can and hope it’s enough,” he said. “You can’t afford to make pars out here, not on Sunday when you’re pressuring the lead.”