Michael Putnam fired a 4-under 67 Sunday to come from behind and win the Nationwide Tour’s Utah Championship by three strokes over Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas and New Zealand’s Bradley Iles. Putnam finished at 18-under 266 and collected his first victory since turning professional in 2005.
Putnam earned $99,000 for the victory and moved from No. 47 to No. 15 on the season money list with seven tournaments left on the schedule. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will earn their PGA Tour cards for 2011.
“I never played on the mini-tours and came right out here after college,” said the 27-year-old Washington native. “This is a tough place to win. I thought it might have come quicker than this but it’s special that it came now.”
Putnam and his wife, Kristina, are expecting their first child, due to arrive during the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island, S.C., the last week of October.
“We’ve got all sorts of options going on,” he said. “But this helps out a lot. It’s huge. This takes a load off.”
Putnam, the 36-hole leader, began the final round at Willow Creek Country Club at 14 under and one shot back of Iles, who stayed one step in front briefly with a birdie at the second hole. A string of four birdies in five holes to close the front nine gave the former Pepperdine University standout the lead for good.
“I had a lot of wins in college but I just haven’t been able to get it done out here,” Putnam said. “I’ve put myself in contention four or five times this year and I think it really helped me get over the hump. I learned a lot from all those bad rounds I played when I was in contention.”
Iles stayed on Putnam’s heels with a birdie at the ninth hole and Vegas, winner of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open last month, charged into contention with three opening birdies and then two more after the turn.
“I was glad to see they were playing well because that pushed me to play well,” said Putnam, who became the Tour’s 12th first-time winner in 2010. “I was just hot with the putter. I made everything I looked at on the front side all week. On the back side I made a lot of good putts but the greens are just so fast that a lot of times you are putting defensively.”
Putnam’s only mistake on the back came with a horrible greenside bunker shot at the par-3 11th. Putnam severely pulled his shot off line and bounced the ball off a photographer.
“I was in that bunker yesterday and there was no sand in it,” said Putnm. “If that didn’t hit him it probably would have been six or seven yards deep in the rough. Luckily it bounced off him and gave me a decent chip at it.”
Putnam got up and down for bogey and then rebounded with a driver, wedge, two-putt birdie at the next hole, putting him two up on Vegas and three in front of Iles. From there, Putnam strung together six closing pars while each of his challengers played them in 1 over par.
Vegas kept attacking but couldn’t get over the hump.
“I felt like I had some opportunities but I just couldn’t execute it the right way,” he said. “I left myself with some wrong angles. I left myself some tough shots and I just wouldn’t be really aggressive and had to go for pars.”
Iles, searching for his first career win, found the fairway only four times off the tee.
“I didn’t hit it very well today at all,” he said. “Michael played awesome. He definitely won it.”
Fourth-Round Notes: Michael Putnam’s older brother Joel was on the bag this week. It is the first week out this year for him to caddie. … Putnam becomes the eighth first-time winner in the tournament’s 12-year history. … Jesse Hutchins recorded the third hole-in-one of the week when he aced the 150-yard 15th hole. … Local favorite Daniel Summerhays shot a 3-under 68 to finish at 5 under for the week and tied for 36th. Summerhays birdied three of his final four holes. He fell two spots from No. 15 to No. 17 on the money list. … Leading money-winner Chris Kirk carded a 2-under 69 to finish 7-under and tied for 17th.
Scott Stallings tied the tournament record for best birdie-eagle streak. Stallings went B-B-B-E-B to start the back nine today. His 6-under stretch tied the mark set by Michael Putnam in 2006 and tied by Brendon Todd in 2008. Stallings shot a 5-under 66 and finished tied for 17th. … John Mallinger fired a 7-under 64 and finished 11 under and tied for seventh. This was Mallinger’s first start on the Nationwide Tour since 2006. He has made 109 PGA Tour starts since then, including 24 this year but missed out on qualifying for the FedExCup playoffs. Mallinger has made only eight cuts on the PGA Tour this year and came into the week No. 128 on the season money list.
Brandt Jobe also shot a 7-under 64 to get to 14 under par. Jobe finished tied for fourth this week and collected $24,200, moving up from No. 32 to No. 23 on the money list. Jobe now has a third, a tie for fourth and a tie for fifth among his finishes this season. … With his tie for second this week, Iles moved up 30 places on the money list, from No. 63 to No. 33. … Chris Nallen tied for seventh this week, his fifth top-10 of the year. Nallen has made nine cuts in a row and remains No. 16 on the money list. … Rookie Andrew Svoboda matched his career-best finish with a tie for seventh. Svoboda is now No. 56 on the money list. … Sunday’s scoring average was 69.986.