First-time winner Steven Bowditch continued a season of surprises on the PGA Tour, claiming the US$6.2 million Texas Open by one stroke on Sunday.
The Australian, who came into the event ranked 339th in the world, survived a windswept final round with a four-over-par 76 at the TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course.
It was the highest closing score by a winner of a Tour event since 2004, but Bowditch had no complaints after securing his first victory in 110 starts and earning US$1.116 million, along with a prized invitation to the Masters in two weeks.
“It’s so hard out there. I’ve never really felt that way for a whole day,” he told the Golf Channel after tapping in from six inches for a bogey at the final hole to finish at eight-under 280, edging US pair Will MacKenzie (70) and Daniel Summerhays (71).
Bowditch is the third Australian to win on the Tour this year, joining Jason Day (WGC Match Play) and John Senden (Tampa Bay Championship).
The 30-year-old from Queensland — the same state the Day, Senden and Masters champion Adam Scott hail from — was a top junior player whose professional career temporarily was stalled as he battled depression.
“Everyone’s dealt with something,” Bowditch said. “You just move on and keep learning and growing.”
He started the final round with a three-stroke lead, but surrendered his advantage in only four holes to fall back into a tie with Matt Kuchar of the US.
Six-time PGA Tour winner Kuchar remained tied for the lead after nine holes, but faded with bogeys at the next two holes and eventually finished two strokes behind to sit in joint fourth.
Korean-American Kevin Na received a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a fairway bunker at the fifth hole of the San Antonio course. He shot a 76 to finish five shots back.
Displaying a deft short game whenever he missed a green, Bowditch birdied the par-five 14th to take a two-stroke lead that held up down the stretch when none of the other competitors could sustain a challenge in the difficult conditions.
All Bowditch had to do then is remain patient en route to becoming the latest addition to a line of long-shot winners on the Tour.
US golfers Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson are the only major champions to have triumphed so far this calendar year.