SANDY, Utah – It came down to a New Zealander vs. an Australian in a playoff to decide the 15th annual Utah Championship on Sunday. In the first extra session in tournament history, Steven Alker of Hamilton, New Zealand, made a par to defeat Australia’s Ashley Hall.
Hall hit his tee shot on the par-3 18th hole into the water and could only make bogey. The victory was Alker’s first Web.com Tour title since he captured the 2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship. Meanwhile, it was another tough-luck loss for Hall, who fell to Ben Martin in a playoff two weeks ago at the United Leasing Championship.
“There’s always been a bit of rivalry with Australia and New Zealand sport. It’s a friendly one most of the time, except for rugby maybe,” Alker said with a laugh. “I just tried to stay as calm as I could today. I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could because I knew there had been some low scores this week and someone from four or five back could come through and pick up the tournament.”
It almost happened. When the day began, Will Wilcox was tied for 38th, 10 shots behind 54-hole leader Chad Collins. Wilcox went out and shot the tour’s fourth 59, making a six-foot birdie putt to secure his place in the record book. Wilcox finished at 21 under, a stroke out of the Alker-Hall playoff.
“With the conditions and the left pins, I was able to make some putts,” said Wilcox, a Birmingham, Ala., native. “It’s huge, obviously. It’s something every golfer dreams of, and on a par 71, it seems a little more attainable.”
The other 59s in Web.com Tour history belong to Notah Begay III, Doug Dunakey and Jason Gore.
In the end, the day belonged to Alker, who played his final 51 holes bogey-free – including the playoff. Alker moved from 149th on the money list to 20th with his $112,500 payday. For Hall, more it was more disappointment, although he stayed positive as he moved up to 21st on the earnings chart.
“I’m not tired of this yet. We’ll just have to get ’em next week in Kansas City,” he said of the Tour’s next event, the Midwest Classic.
“I took one less (club) than in regulation,” he said of his club selection in the playoff, electing to go with an 8-iron instead of the 7-iron he had used 20 minutes earlier. “I was a little bit in between clubs. I wanted to give myself a putt. It was the right club. I just hit a poor shot. It was the right club if I hit it good.”
Collins, who had a shot at 59 himself and set a Web.com Tour record with his nine-hole 27 Friday, also stayed positive.
“I’m disappointed, but this is something to move forward on, something I can take into the next tournament and into the rest of the year. I don’t see why I can’t be in this position from here on out,” the Indiana native said. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the week I was going to tie for third, was going to shoot 60, shoot 27 for nine holes, heck yeah I’ll take that.”
--There was at least one 18-hole score of every number between 59 (Will Wilcox) and 77 (Tain Lee) this week.
-- Michael Putnam, the 2010 champion, who opened 69-63-67, couldn’t get anything going in his final round and shot a 1-over 72 to tie for 30th, his worst finish in five starts. He earned $3,750 to add to his all-time leading Utah Championship total that’s now at $178,401.
--Todd Demsey, who won the 1998 Utah Open at Willow Creek Country Club the year before the Web.com Tour moved to the course, shot a 64 to tie for seventh. It was his first top-10 since the 2007 Peek’n Peak Classic and his best showing since he tied for sixth at the 2007 Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship.
--Ashley Hall has turned in eight consecutive sub-par rounds. All of his rounds at the United Leasing Championship, where he lost in a playoff, were under par. In the Utah Championship, he again turned in four under-par rounds and lost in a playoff (68-62-67-65).