Kyle Thompson rolled in a birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to bust up a jammed leaderboard and win the Nationwide Tour’s Rex Hospital Open for the second time in five years. Thompson’s 7-footer proved the difference at TPC Wakefield Plantation and gave him a one-stroke win over Scott Brown, Troy Kelly and Martin Flores.
The former South Carolina standout posted a 3-under 68 on the final day to reach 14-under-par 270 and collect his third career title. More importantly, he collected a check for $99,000, which pushed him to No. 6 in the season money standings.
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“I never counted myself out all day. Before the day started I thought 16 under would be enough,” said Thompson, who started at minus-11 and part of three-way tie for fourth place, one off the pace. “I knew nobody was running away with it today so every shot was going to be important.”
Sunday’s finale had playoff written all over it. When second-round leader Scott Brown reached the 72nd green, he was at 13 under par and part of a six-way tie for the lead. The other five co-leaders were in the final two threesomes right behind him. Somebody needed to step up.
“I knew it was going to come down to the wire,” said Thompson.
When Brown failed to make birdie, Thompson took his turn in the next group. A tee shot into the middle of the fairway left him 152 yards to a back right pin location.
“It set up perfectly for me because I like to fade the ball,” he said. “It was every golfer’s dream putt -- seven feet with a little right-to-left break.”
And he knew it meant something big.
“How could I not?” he laughed. “I heard the announcer on the speaker tell everyone I was tied for the lead. If I wasn’t trying to look at a leaderboard today, I certainly couldn’t avoid hearing that!”
Playing partner Kyle Reifers missed a birdie chance that would have put him at 13 under, setting the stage for Thompson’s dramatic closer. He knew it was good before the ball hit the cup.
“I heard it,” said Kelly, who was walking in the fairway. “It sounded loud enough to go one ahead. It sounded like a pretty good roar.”
Thompson’s fist pump and high-fives with his caddie gave his challengers visual confirmation.
“I putted tremendously all week,” said Thompson. “I’ve played enough times out here to know that you have to be patient so I kept my nose down and kept plugging away.”
After turning in his scorecard, Thompson then waited out the final threesome to see if anyone would match him and force a playoff. Ryan Armour was at 12 under and needed an eagle from the fairway. Kelly and Flores needed birdie to tie.
“I’ve never been in this spot before but I don’t mind it,” he said as watched the action. “I’m probably more nervous now that I was at any point in the day. I really felt comfortable out there today.”
Thompson watched as Flores’ 25-foot putt curled around the back of the hole.Then Kelly failed on his 22-footer to tie, giving Thompson the victory.
“I’m complete elated. I’m overwhelmed,” said Thompson, who won twice in 2007. “This means so much more to me because I have a family now. It’s amazing how things turn out. “I have a lot of reasons to play good now.”
Thompson turns his attention to keeping his position inside the top 25 on the money list as the season moves forward. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year earn their PGA Tour cards for 2012.
“I want to be out there and I know the best way to get out there is by winning,” he said. “A lot of my friends are out there, Heck, I may know more guys out there than I do out here now.”
--Will Wilcox shot a 6-under 65 to close on the leaders. Wilcox was bogey-free today and finished the week at 10-under 274 and tied for 11th. Wilcox began the year with no status on tour and was a Monday qualifier at the Stadion Classic at UGA, where he tied for third. He is now 4-for-4 in cuts made and with his finish today, he moves up to No. 20 on the money list.
--J.J. Killeen posted a bogey-free 66 and moved into the top 10. Killeen finished tied for fifth this week. He was solo fifth at last week’s Melwood Prince George’s County Open. This is only the second time in Killeen’s Nationwide Tour career he has posted back-to-back top-10s. Killeen moved from No. 29 to No. 19 on the money list.
--Troy Kelly’s tie for second vaulted him six spots from No. 8 to No. 2 on the money list. Scott Brown’s tie for second pushed him from No. 44 to No. 16 on the money list. Martin Flores also moved into the top 25 with his tie for second. The former Oklahoma Sooner was No. 60 but is now No. 24. Ryan Armour, tied for second a week ago in College Park, Md., inched three spots to No. 10 on the money list.