The cushion that Steve Flesch had built heading into the final round of Sunday's Turning Stone Resort Championship proved to be a critical factor as the left-hander overcame a rough start to win his second PGA Tour event of the year and the fourth of his career.
Flesch limped home with a 1-over-par round of 73 at Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, N.Y. But thanks to a four-stroke advantage after 54 holes, Flesch was able to finish at 18-under-par 270 and win by two shots over Michael Allen, who closed with a 4-under 68 in the Tour's first Fall Series event.
Flesch won the Reno-Tahoe Open back in August, but had to be even more pleased with Sunday's victory. The winner's share was $1.08 million - the largest pay day of his career - moving Flesch from No. 70 to No. 25 on the Tour's money list and guaranteeing him a spot in next year's U.S. Open.
"It's been a few years since I've been up there on the money list," Flesch told reporters. "I'm a little bummed the Tour Championship is over already because that's my barometer for how my year is gone. I know if I get in the Tour Championship, I know I've played well."
Although a poor start to the season kept Flesch from ranking higher in the FedEx Cup standings, he said he's now gunning for a top-30 finish on the money list to earn him sports in next year's majors.
"I figure I've got four more events this year to secure my spot in that top 30 and get in all the majors next year," Flesch said. "That's my goal right now: get in those majors, because I haven't been in them for a couple of years and I really relish playing in them."
Leading both Carl Pettersson and Charles Warren by four strokes to start, Flesch promptly made bogeys on his first two holes to drop back to 17 under. However, Flesch then responded with back-to-back birdies at holes 3-4 and another birdie at the par-5 eighth.
"The birdie I made on 3 was huge," Flesch said. "My birdies on 3 and 4 kind of righted the ship. I calmed me down a little bit and, I dare use the word cruise, but it helped me cruise through the middle of the round there, and fortunately nobody made a big enough run to get to me."
With the greens firming up, Sunday's conditions were the most difficult of any of the four tournament rounds. Flesch said that was no excuse for going bogey, bogey out of the gate.
"I got off to a bad start," Flesch said. "But you know what, I worked hard the first three days to build that lead and fortunately, I had some shots to play with. So today wasn't my best work but that's all right. I outlasted everybody else, so that's all I was worried about.
After that, Flesch recorded seven consecutive pars before bogeying 16 and 18 while holding on for what Flesch said was a very sweet victory.
"Eight weeks ago, I was fighting to keep my job out here," Flesch said. "I wasn't playing great, missing a lot of cuts by a shot. When I did make the cut, I was shooting even par on the weekends and you're just waving guys by when that happens.
"It's funny, this game is all confidence. Putting's confidence. Everything's confidence. You know, it's amazing that one little spark can kind of turn your year around and turn your game around. All my friends and family told me to hang in there and keep working hard."
Allen, who birdied Nos. 16 and 17 on the way to his final-round 68, said that a second-place finish was huge for him.
"In a way, I won the tournament already just finishing second, because for me that was enormous," Allen said in a post-round interview. "I'd love to get that first win, but … I didn't really have much chance to win unless (Flesch) really faltered. I just kind of kept playing and did my thing and I feel pretty darned good."
September 24, 2007
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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