MIDLAND, Texas -- Luke Guthrie will be going to the Ryder Cup next week in Chicago as a spectator. Given his play in the past couple of months, U.S. Captain Davis Love III might want him to join the squad as a playing member.
Guthrie fired a 6-under 66 Sunday in the final round of the Web.com Tour’s WNB Golf Classic and rallied from five shots down to win for the second time in as many weeks.
Guthrie canned a 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Midland Country Club for a 17-under 271 total and waited as the last pairing of Cameron Percy and defending champion Danny Lee both failed to birdie the final hole of regulation, leaving them one shot back of the Tour’s hottest player.
Guthrie, winner of last week’s Albertsons Boise Open, picked up the winner’s check for $99,000, which vaulted him to No. 1 on the money list with just five tournaments left to go on the schedule.
Since his first event in late July, Guthrie now has six top-10s -- two wins, a playoff runner-up, a tie for third, a tie for sixth and a tie for 10th, along with one missed cut -- in seven starts while pushing his season total to $382,463. Oh, he also played in three prior PGA Tour events and finished tied for 19th, tied for fifth and tied for 18th, which earned him another $284,672,
“I’m just trying to ride it out,” he said of his stellar play. “As a golfer you go through these runs where the hole gets bigger, your mind slows down and it seems easy. The trick in golf is have more days like this than the bad ones.”
Guthrie hasn’t had too many bad days since turning pro earlier in this summer and Sunday’s closer in West Texas was no different.
The 22-year-old from Quincy, Ill., birdied his first three holes to quickly make up some ground on the leaders and join the party. The first two birdie putts of 12 and 5 feet were nothing in comparison to the 50-footer he rolled in at No. 3.
“I was just trying to lag it down there close and it found the cup,” chuckled Guthrie.
A hiccup bogey at No. 6 was followed by birdies at Nos. 7, 9 and 12. Guthrie was at 16 under but still chasing Percy and Lee who were keeping pace. Percy grabbed the lead early with an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole and when he birdied No. 14 he was at 18 under. Lee, who started the day two strokes in front of Percy and Monday qualifier Morgan Hoffmann (74) also birdied the 411-yard 14th to stay within one.
“I just wanted to get in the mix on the back,” said Guthrie, who needed some help down the stretch.
Lee obliged with a bogey at the par-5 16th to fall back to minus-16. He would close with three straight pars and come up short in his attempt to become the first player in Tour history to successfully defend a title.
Percy would stumble with consecutive bogeys at 16 and 17 to fall out of the lead, which belonged to Guthrie after he rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt on 17.
Playing in the third-to-last group, Guthrie then made an all-world par-save on the 470-yard, dogleg-right finishing hole.
“I probably should have pulled a 3-wood off the tee,” he said. “And not hit driver.”
He tee shot went through the fairway and settled among some trees that guard the left side of the hole. Guthrie had 146 yards to hole and punched an 8-iron under the trees. The ball bounced in, then out of the front, greenside bunker and nestled in the rough. His pitch came up short, setting up his “biggest clutch putt as a professional.”
“I misjudged the chip,” he admitted. “Even if I hit it perfect it was going to wind up a good five feet short. There’s a little ridge there and I had inside left edge. It wiggled a little bit right just before the hole but snuck in the right side.”
Guthrie’s 66 was the low round of the day, but he headed to the practice range, figuring Lee and/or Percy would make a birdie and force a playoff. Neither got close after each wound up in the same trees that Guthrie found 20 minutes earlier and each settled for par.
“I missed my flight home, so it looks like I’ll miss class again tomorrow,” said Guthrie, who is juggling golf with school and finishing up 13 credits for his business degree at the University of Illinois. “I’m going to meet with the teacher and catch up on my homework but then head to Chicago for the weekend.”
He might want to let love DL3 know he’s in town, just in case.
--Luke Guthrie moved to No. 1 on the money list, leap-frogging Casey Wittenberg (DNP) and Luke List (tied for 14th). His total of $382,463 tops No. 2 List by $51,384.
--Guthrie has now earned $667,108 in his 10 combined starts as a professional (7 Web.com Tour, 3 PGA Tour). He also has a total of seven top-10 finishes and nine top-20 finishes in those 10 events. His only missed cut came at the Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh three weeks ago.
--Guthrie becomes the second player to win in back-to-back weeks this year, joining Ben Kohles in that category. Coincidentally, Kohles defeated Guthrie in a playoff at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. Kohles went on to win the following week at the Cox Classic.
--Guthrie becomes the 13th player in Tour history to register consecutive wins and the eighth to do it in back-to-back weeks:
--This is the first time since 2004 that the Tour has seen two back-to-back winners in a single season. Daniel Chopra and Charles Warren both won in consecutive starts back in 2004, but neither won in consecutive weeks. Chopra won the First Tee Arkansas Classic and came back five weeks later to win the Henrico County Open. Warren won the Samsung Canadian PGA Championship and took a week off before returning to capture the Cox Classic.
--Defending champion Danny Lee came up one shot shy in his attempt to become the first player in Web.com Tour history to successfully defend a title. He joins three others who came close to repeating their wins.
--Luke List shot a final-round 69 to tie for 14th. List earned $9,075, which was enough to pass former No. 1 money winner Casey Wittenberg. List’s season total of $331,079 is No. 2 and tops Wittenberg by only $526.
--With his sixth-place finish, Monday qualifier Morgan Hoffmann has earned enough money in 2012 to become a Special Temporary Member. Hoffmann came into the week with $41,170 and needed $2,123 to reach the equivalent of 100th place on the 2011 money list to gain membership. Hoffmann now has $60,970 and is No. 78 on the season money list.
Hoffmann will be eligible for the next reshuffle of his category, which won’t come until after the Miccosukee Championship, the next-to-last full field event this year. By virtue of his top-25 finish this week, Hoffman earns a start in next week’s event, the Chiquita Classic.
--The Web.com Tour moves to east next week for the Chiquita Classic in suburban Charlotte, N.C. The tournament will be held at The Club at Longview in Weddington, moving there after being held near Cincinnati the past two years. Last year Russell Knox cruised to a three-stroke win at TPC River’s Bend, finishing at 25 under par for his first career title.