PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, made five birdies in seven holes midway through the final round Thursday and went on to win the PGA Stroke Play Championship for a record fourth time.
The co-leader the first and second rounds but trailing by three after three, Sowards fired a closing round of five under par 67 on the Wanamaker course at The PGA Golf Club. At nine under par 279, he won by a shot.
Rob Corcoran, playing in the next-to-last group but tied with Sowards at four under through 54 holes, finished with 68 on five birdies and a closing bogey at 18 for 280. “I’ve been playing in these Winter Championships since 2006 and this is my best finish,” said Corcoran, a teaching professional at the Poxabogue Golf Center in Bridgehampton, N.Y., who winters in Melbourne. “I am very pleased.”
Two other New Yorkers, Ben Polland of Manhasset and Mark Brown of Glen Head, playing in the final threesome with Sowards, were third and fourth. Polland, the 54-hole leader, closed with 74-283, while Brown, the 2008 champion, had 73-284.
Sowards, a teaching professional at New Albany, Ohio, Country Club, previously won the Stroke Play in 2005-06 and last year he tied the record of three wins by the late John Barnum of Grand Rapids, Mich. Barnum’s victories were in 1963-64 and 1968. The first of those came at the nearby Port St. Lucie Country Club. Barnum was 85 when he died in 1996.
“I knew about his three wins,” Sowards said. “I like being the first to do something like this (win four times). I was told walking onto the 18th green that there was someone in at eight under. It was nice knowing I could two-putt from 15 feet and win.”
After a birdie at the second hole, Sowards made birdies at Nos. 7, 9, 10, 12 and 13, finally pulling ahead of Polland with the last two. Sowards bogeyed the eighth. “I played solid all week, playing with a lot of confidence,” Sowards said. “I had a triple bogey Monday and a double bogey Tuesday, but I’ve also made a lot birdies,” 22 in four days.
Sowards will be going for another record four-peat next week in the PGA Match Play Championship. The two-time defending champion also won in 2005. Rick Vershure (1990, 1993 and 2003) and Rick Schuller (2006, 2009 and 2011) have three Match Play titles apiece.