Australia’s Steven Bowditch fired a final-round 68 Sunday to earn his second career Nationwide Tour title, winning the $1 million Soboba Golf Classic. Bowditch, the 54-hole leader, birdied the first hole and eagled the sixth and was never seriously challenged the rest of the way, winning comfortably by three strokes over Utah’s Daniel Summerhays.
Vermont rookie Keegan Bradley (71) and Texan B.J. Staten shared third place at 14 under par. Seven players tied for fifth place, six back of the winner.
Bowditch finished with a tournament-record 19-under 265 total to earn the $180,000 first-place check and a probable return trip to the PGA Tour next year. Bowditch, 27, vaulted from 76 to No. 11 on the money list with only four weeks left on the 2010 Nationwide Tour schedule. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will earn their PGA Tour cards for 2011.
“It’s a great feeling, but we’ve still got a lot of golf left to be played,” he said. “There’ll be a lot of shuffling around with the players but it should be locked, sealed and delivered.”
The win is the first for Bowditch since he captured the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Open Championship in his homeland in only his second career start. He went on to lose a playoff the following week in New Zealand and eventually finished fourth on the season money list and graduated to the PGA Tour in 2006.
The road has been filled with potholes and rocks ever since. He made only two cuts in 22 starts in his rookie season and earned only $11,160. He was disqualified four times that year and withdrew on three other occasions, but the big-hitter from New South Wales has continued to battle through the down cycle and now finds himself back on top of his game.
“It’s been some of the best times of my life,” he admitted. “It feels better once you’ve accomplished something to lose it and then go back. I feel a good sense of achievement. It’s fantastic.”
Fantastic is the best adjective to describe Bowditch’s work with the putter this week. He finished with only 96 for the week, one shy of Grant Waite’s 2003 Nationwide Tour record for fewest putts in a single tournament. Bowditch had only 18 official putts during Saturday’s third-round 63, tying the Tour mark for fewest in a single round.
“Yesterday was the round that put me in position. I didn’t play well at all but I putted great,” he said. “Today, I played better and didn’t make any putts but I didn’t miss any. The short game is really the key to winning out here when you’ve got a lead.”
Bowditch started the day with a two-stroke advantage and increased it to four with a chip-in for eagle at the par-5 sixth hole.
“That was big,” he said of the shot that pushed him to 19 under. “I was still hitting the ball pretty average then and wasn’t feeling confident with my lines. I still blew it 50 yards right on the next hole and made bogey but from the ninth tee, I thought I hit the right shots I needed to hit and win a golf tournament. I’m actually starting to hit the ball straight.”
Bowditch, who tied for eighth at last week’s WNB Golf Classic in Texas, will head east with the rest of the Tour for next week’s stop at the Chattanooga Classic.
Fourth-Round Notes: Steven Bowditch’s win came in his 101st career start on the Nationwide Tour. His first win came 99 starts and 5 years, 7 months and 13 days ago. … In his last 76 starts on the Nationwide Tour, dating back to the end of the of the 2005 campaign, Bowditch had earned a total of $173,970. His paycheck Sunday was worth $180,000. … Bowditch finished the week with 96 total putts (28-24-18-26), matching the second-lowest single-tournament total in Nationwide Tour history. Grant Waite established the mark with 95 putts at the 2003 Miccosukee Championship.
Daniel Summerhays birdied the final hole for a 3-under 68 and solo second place at 16 under par. He was solo second at the Albertsons Boise Open two weeks ago (his last start) and now has three runner-up finishes this season. Summerhays earned $108,000 for the week, the largest paycheck of his career and moved up No. 4 on the season money list with $368,992. Summerhays was an amateur when he won the 2007 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational -- a tournament that carried with it a first-place check for $126,000. … Keegan Bradley’s tie for third was worth $58,000 and moved him from No. 23 to No. 15 on the money list. … B.J. Staten also tied for third and jumped from No. 34 to No. 19.
Nate Smith, winner of last week’s WNB Golf Classic, eagled the final hole for a 2-under 69 and a 13-under 271 total. Smith was No. 78 on the money list two weeks ago and then moved to No. 25 with his victory. With his payday today, he moved up to No. 21. … There are three full-field events left on the 2010 schedule: Chattanooga Classic, Miccosukee Championship and Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open. The season ends with the top-60 money winners competing at the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island, Oct. 25-31.