GREER, S.C. -- Australia’s Nick Flanagan tapped in a short par putt on the third playoff hole Sunday to defeat countryman Cameron Percy and win the BMW Charity Pro-Am for the second time.
Flanagan and Percy tied at 15-under 271 in the event that matches Nationwide Tour pros with amateurs in a once-a-year better-ball format over three different courses.
The two Aussies were forced into the tour’s first playoff of the year when fortunes turned for each on the final hole of regulation. Percy was leading at 16 under, but missed a 10-foot par putt to fall back to minus-15 and open the door for Flanagan, who was making only his second start of 2012 campaign.
Flanagan, down by one in the group immediately behind, hooked his second shot at the uphill, 491-yard 18th. The ball hit a TV cameraman and caromed back onto the green, nearly clipping the cup before settling 15 feet from the hole.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good, obviously. You’ve got to take every break you can get out here,” said Flanagan, who also captured this event in 2007. “The birdie putt was pretty much straightaway and I had a pretty good read. As soon as I hit it, I felt like it was going in. It bobbled on the way but it had enough speed to get there.”
First-round leader Darron Stiles finished one shot out of the overtime session when he three-putted the final green about 45 minutes prior to Percy’s missed putt. He settled for a tie for third with rookie Robert Streb, who missed a potential playoff-joining birdie putt from 35 feet while Percy looked on.
Sam Saunders, Aaron Watkins and Canada’s Brad Fritsch shared fifth place, two shots back.
Flanagan and Percy, who has yet to win on tour, headed back to the same closing hole for the tournament’s third playoff in four years. Both hit tee shots into the left rough on the first extra hole and wound up missing par putts to send it back to the tee.
The second time, the hole was halved with two-putt pars.
“It’s a tough finish when you’re hitting 5-irons and 6-irons into the hole,” said Flanagan, who fired a 3-under 68 at the Thornblade Club. “It’s just a matter of endurance and getting it somewhere near the green and making a par.”
Percy’s tee shot on the third extra hole went into the trees to the left after hitting a cart path, while Flanagan was in the middle of the fairway.
“I just hit a bad tee shot on that last one,” said Percy. “I tried to hit it too hard. When it hit the path I was in all kinds of trouble.”
Percy, who now calls Raleigh home 11 months of the year, had to chip back into the fairway. His third sailed over tha back edge of the green. Shortly thereafter, the 27-year-old Flanagan had blasted out of a greenside bunker to within 15 inches for par.
Percy chipped well past the hole and then missed the bogey putt coming back. Flanagan needed only to tap in for the win, something a long time in the making.
“It’s pretty amazing. I didn’t feel like I was playing that well coming into the week,” said Flanagan, who missed the cut at the Chile Classic in his only other start this year. “I decided to come out and try to just get the ball in the hole, which I haven’t done for a long time. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get all the way back to where I was, but to win this week feels like I’m a heck of a lot closer,”
Flanagan collected a first-place check for $108,000 and vaulted all the way to No. 11 on the money list with two-thirds of the season yet to go. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will move onto the PGA Tour in 2013.
In 2007, Flanagan won three times and earned a ‘battlefield promotion’ to the Tour. The following year he made only 16 cuts in 29 starts and failed to keep his card.
“I got out there and didn’t feel very comfortable. The atmosphere is different and then I started struggling,” said Flanagan. “I was battling week to week the whole time. When you’re playing bad every week it’s hard to get motivated to play sometimes. At times I didn’t feel like I fit in. If I can get back there again I think I’ll be able to adapt a little easier.”
--The team of professional Fabian Gomez and amateur Brian Todd finished a whopping 46 under par to win the team competition by 12 strokes. The team of pro Martin Piller and actor Andrew Buckley won the pro-am celebrity portion of the event with a 30 under par score.
--Nick Flanagan becomes the 11th player in Nationwide Tour history to win the same event twice. The last to do it was South Carolina grad Kyle Thompson when he won the Rex Hospital Open in 2011, adding it to his title in 2007.
--Sunday’s playoff was the fifth in tournament history and the third in the past four years. In 2009, Australia’s Michael Sim defeated Fabian Gomez of Argentina and South Africa’s Garth Mulroy topped South Korea’s Sunghoon Kang last year.
--Runner-up Cameron Percy jumped from No. 19 to No.6 on the money list. Darron Stiles (tied for third) vaulted seven spots to No. 17 on the money list while Robert Streb (tied for third) jumped nine spots to No. 14.
--Sam Saunders’ tie for fifth is a career best. Saunders, who played college golf at nearby Clemson University, had only one top-10 finish on the Nationwide Tour – a tie for 10th at the 2011 Panama Claro Championship. The 24-year-old grandson of legendary player Arnold Palmer moved up from No. 91 to No. 46 on the money list with his effort this week.
--Among the highlights this week was Tony Finau’s double eagle at the 531-yard fifth hole at Thornblade Club on Thursday. Finau used a 5-iron from 216 yards for his second shot. It was the second double eagle of the year on the Nationwide Tour (Luke List, Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship) and the second in tournament history (Travis Perkins, 2001, Keowee Vineyards). Finau is in his rookie season and this was his first start of the year.
-- The Nationwide Tour will take next week off before resuming the 2012 schedule at the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, N.C. May 28-June 3.