Scott Brown went from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot victory on Sunday in the Puerto Rico Open, when he made a four-foot birdie putt on the par-five18th to beat Fabian Gomez and capture his first PGA Tour title.
Brown closed with a two-under 70, his final birdie set up with a three-iron that he kept low to avoid palm trees and leave himself a 30-yard pitch short of the green.
Gomez, trying to become the first Argentine to win on tour since Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters, was in perfect position off the tee at the 18th. That was when it went all around. His second shot left him a tough lie in the bunker, and he blasted that over the green and into another bunker. He missed a 15-foot par putt for a 71, and then had to watch as Brown rapped in the winning putt.
“I thought I would need an eagle as well as he was playing,” Brown said. “So I just stayed aggressive.”
Brown finished at 20-under 268 to set the tournament record. He earned US$630,000, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a spot in The Players Championship in May and the PGA Championship in August. Because the Puerto Rico Open is held the same week as a World Golf Championship in Florida, the win does not get the native of Augusta, Georgia, into the Masters.
Even so, it was a stunning turnaround in so many ways.
Late last year, Brown was on the putting green at Disney in the final event of the year, wondering if he would have to go through the second stage of Q-school. He wound up at 148th on the money list for conditional status, which offered him limited starts on the tour this year.
The Puerto Rico Open was one of them, and Brown made the most of it.
He had been planning on playing a full Web.com Tour schedule this year. Instead, he was headed to the Tampa Bay Championship next week and can spend the rest of his season in the big leagues, and start next season in Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions.
“I was nervous over that last putt,” Brown said. “A kid growing up in Augusta, this is a dream come true.”
It was anything but that for Gomez, who earned his tour card at Q-school a year ago.
“On that final hole, I hit a good drive off the tee, but followed that with a poor three-iron and it cost me big,” Gomez said. “I had a very bad lie there and it was a difficult shot, and I was unable to pull it off, but that’s golf. You never know what may happen.”
Gomez tied for second with 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, who was playing on a sponsor exemption and now is exempt into the Tampa Bay Championship. Spieth shot 67.
“It was cool to battle on the back nine there and know that I was close in the heat and to feel the pressure,” Spieth said. “It was a first-time experience for me.”
Justin Bolli (66) and Brian Stuard (68) were another shot behind.
Former US Amateur champion Peter Uihlein made eagle on the final hole for a 67 to tie for sixth, giving him a spot in Tampa Bay next week. Uihlein, who is playing the Challenge Tour in Europe, was coming off a tie for fourth in South Africa in a European Tour event.
Brown became the fourth first-time tour winner this year, joining Russell Henley (Sony Open), John Merrick (Northern Trust Open) and Michael Thompson (Honda Classic).