Nobody was more surprised than Garth Mulroy when South Korea’s Sunghoon Kang missed a short par putt on the first extra hole Sunday to hand Mulroy the title at Nationwide Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am, his first victory in more than two years.
Mulroy (67) and Kang (69) finished four rounds tied at 18 under par and were forced into the season’s first playoff. Kang, a conditional member of the PGA Tour making his initial career start on the Nationwide Tour, blasted out of a front bunker to within three feet. He then watched as Mulroy two-putted for par from 18 feet, leaving Kang to knock in a short one and return to the tee at the 491-yard, par-4 18th hole.
“You never expect someone to miss from that distance but it happens,” said Mulroy. “I was pretty shocked. I was probably already to the front of the green and thinking about the tee shot.”
Instead, he can turn his attention to returning to the PGA Tour, where he played last year. Mulroy collected a check for $108,000 and vaulted from No. 68 to No. 2 on the money list.
“You never know if you’re going to get another one,” said Mulroy, whose last victory came at the 2009 South Georgia Classic. “This one was harder than the last one. With that one I was calmer, I was hitting the ball better and making birdies. Today after a little run on the front nine I got stuck on par for a while. I figured 20 under was the number.”
The day began with Purdue’s Travis Hampshire at 17 under and leading Kang by one and Mulroy three back. Mulroy, a North Carolina State grad, promptly three-putted the first hole for bogey.
“My caddie turned to me and said that all great rounds start with a bogey,” laughed Mulroy. “I can’t repeat what I said to him in response.”
Mulroy birdied the second hole and then went birdie-eagle-birdie two holes later to move into contention at 18 under. Hampshire’s 2-under front nine had him at minus-19 and leading by two over Mulroy, but the then Hoosier stumbled with three bogeys on his next four holes.
Kang birdied the 10th to get to 18 under and seemed to have to the best chance to reach 20 under but closed with eight straight pars.
“I missed so many putts today, it’s really disappointing, said Kang, who had 34 putts during the final round, including 18 on the back nine. “I’ve got to work on my putting a little bit more.”
Mulroy reached 18 under with a birdie at No. 13 but couldn’t birdie either No. 15 or 16, both reachable par 5s.
“I was able to get a little momentum going there early,” said Mulroy. “It was a struggle on the back.”
New Zealand’s Danny Lee was at 18 under and 7 under for the day through 14 holes, but saw his chances at victory derailed by a bogey at the par-5 16th, one of the easiest holes at Thornblade Club. Lee had knocked his second shot out of bounds on the hole Saturday and made triple bogey.
“I lost four shots on that hole in two days,” said Lee, who wound up 17 under and solo third, his third consecutive top-10 finish. “It’s an easy par 5 but somehow that hole makes me really nervous. That tee shot is just so hard for me.”
Roberto Castro (65) and B.J. Staten (64) made early runs up the leaderboard but both suffered bogeys late in the round and wound up at 16-under 270, tied for fourth place. Joining them were Andrew Buckle (65), Will MacKenzie (66), Greenville resident Brent Delahoussaye (69) and Hampshire (72).
--Garth Mulroy’s win was the second of his career and came in his 90th career start on the Nationwide Tour.
--Garth Mulroy and Sunghoon Kang both tied for 10th in fairways hit, and tied for sixth in greens in regulation. Mulroy tied for 23rd in putting while Kang tied for 13th. Both players will play in next week’s PGA Tour event, the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Texas.
--Danny Lee continues to knock on the door of victory. He tid for seventh at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, tied for fifth at the Stadion Classic at UGA and tied for third this week in his his last three starts. The 20-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion jumped from No. 23 to No. 10 on the season money list. He also finished second at the European Tour’s Volvo China Open in late April, giving him four top-10s in his last five worldwide starts.