Golf: Arizonan Doug LaBelle II wins Utah Championship
Sandy • It shouldn't have been close, really.
So said Michael Putnam after squandering a four-shot lead to start the final day of the Utah Championship.
In the end, it was steady Doug LaBelle II who hung around and picked off Putnam to capture his second Web.com Tour victory six years after his first victory in 2006.
"I'm very shocked, especially the way Michael played all week," said LaBelle, whose 3-under-par 68, combined with Putnam's surreal 3-over-par round, was good enough for a one-shot victory Sunday at Willow Creek Country Club.
LaBelle, who had gone 94 starts between wins, set a Utah Championship record by erasing a five-shot deficit to win.
"I felt I had to shoot 7- or 8-under [par] to have a chance to win. I just tried to hang in there."
The $99,000 winner's check vaulted the Scottsdale, Ariz., resident from 92nd on the tour's money list to 14th. The top 25 earners for the season receive a PGA Tour card for 2013.
"This feels really good," said LaBelle, who now is in contention for a second try on the PGA Tour, which he played in 2007 and 2008.
"It's been pretty frustrating to play some pretty good golf and play enough to win and not win," continued LaBelle, who was also fortunate his minus-15 held up to win. The winning score was at least 20-under par in four of the last five tournaments. It was the worst winning total since 13-under won in 2005.
Meanwhile, Putnam, entering Sunday at 17-under, birdied the first hole to increase his lead. Then the wheels came off.
The five par 5s, holes Putnam had played well all week, proved his undoing. He bogeyed three of them, including 17.
Putnam's collapse allowed a handful of other golfers to get back into the tournament. James Hahn, who started nine shots back, Scott Gutschewski and Sam Saunders finished tied with Putnam for second.
And all had putts on the back nine to at least force a playoff. Hahn took a one-shot lead on No. 15 15-under before bogeying 18. Hahn hit a poor tee shot on the par-3 finishing hole and missed a 5-foot putt for par.
"I hit a fade," he said. "I figured the best way to practice that is in competition. Granted, I hit a horrible shot, but nine times out of 10 I'd do the same thing."
Putnam faced a day's worth of mediocre shots, including hitting behind some trees and taking a bogey on the par-5 10th.
"I played terrible," Putnam said. "I didn't deserve anything better. I hit some really bad shots today. If I would have had an average day, I would have won the tournament."
Instead, LaBelle's consistency over the four days was good enough for the win.
In 2007 and 2008, when he was on the PGA Tour, LaBelle didn't feel he had the game to win and changed hitting coaches.
"I feel like it is good enough to win now," LaBelle said.
Willow Creek Country Club; Par 71; 7,104 yards; Purse: $550,000
1. Doug LaBelle II 15-under 269 $99,000
2. James Hahn 14-under 270 $36,300
2. Scott Gutschewski 14-under 270 $36,000
2. Sam Saunders 14-under 270 $36,000
2. Michael Putnam 14-under 270 $36,000
6. Craig Bowden 13-under 271 $19,800
42. B.J. Staten 5-under 279 $2,268.75
72. Pete Stone 6-over 290 $1,320