HARTFORD, Conn. – It was a good-news/bad news Sunday for University of Hartford grad Jerry Kelly in the final round of the PGA Tour Champion’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Kelly rallied to shoot a 5-under-par 66 at Phoenix Country Club in Arizona to tie for 10th at 14-under 270, but it wasn’t enough to overtake close friend Scott McCarron for his first Charles Schwab Cup title.
In fact, new World Golf Hall of Fame member Retief Goosen birdied five holes on the back nine, including a two-putt at the par-5 18th, in shooting a 5-under 30 for 64 and 21-under 263 total to take the Charles Schwab Cup race lead. But third-round leader Jeff Maggert made an 8-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to shoot 66 and force a playoff with the South African who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on June 10 and won the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, a major, on July 14. He also lost a playoff to Kelly in the American Family Insurance Championship.
The 55-year-old Maggert missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole, No. 18, but Goosen also missed to the left from 4 feet with the tournament and Schwab Cup titles on the line. The duo returned to the 18th hole, and Maggert hooked his drive and second shot left, coming up 57 yards short of the green. After Goosen hit his second shot from the rough 10 yards short, Maggert hit a deft pitch over the edge of a bunker to 3 feet. Goosen chipped to 6 inches for a tap-in birdie, which Maggert matched, sending the playoff to a third hole, the par-4 17th.
Goosen sliced his drive into a fairway bunker, and Maggert found the fairway. After Goosen hit a brilliant 142-yard bunker shot to 7 feet below the cup, Maggert hit a wedge shot from 123 yards that took one bounce and rolled into the cup for an eagle 2 and his sixth PGA Tour Champions victory but first since August 2015.
“I’ve seen (a hole-out) happen, but I never, ever thought it would happen to me in my life,” Maggert said. “Obviously, I didn’t make a lot of putts the last two days, but sometimes you don’t need the putter to win and here I hole out a wedge shot and win. I’m tickled to death, but I also feel bad for Retief because he played incredible golf over the weekend (64-64) and hit an unbelievable bunker shot in the playoff.”
When asked about him giving McCarron the Schwab Cup title, Maggert smiled and said, “Scott owes me some red wine or something. But hats off to him. He played some great golf this year. I know he didn’t play as well as he wanted the last few weeks, but he had built up a (points) cushion.”
Goosen would have finished No. 1 if he won the tournament but failed to become the first rookie to capture the season-long competition. After he completed his round, McCarron watched the finish in the clubhouse with his wife, friends and other players, including Kelly and Glastonbury native Tim Petrovic, a University of Hartford teammate of Kelly. McCarron later adjourned to the clubhouse patio with a glass of wine and friends, including Kelly, whom he hugged when Maggert’s walk-off shot disappeared.
“Are you kidding me?” said a stunned but beaming McCarron, who claimed a $1 million bonus thanks to Maggert’s shot. “I had finished fourth, third and second (in the Charles Schwab Cup race), and my goal this year was to win. Jerry Kelly and Bernhard Langer played great down the stretch, and Retief had a chance to win with that short putt (on the first playoff hole).
“The last three weeks had been pretty brutal because the pressure of trying to win the trophy got to me. But I was very fortunate to have a good stretch early in the year and built up a cushion. I didn’t play great in the playoffs, but I battled hard, had a great attitude all week and it all worked out in the end.”
The always talkative McCarron suddenly went silent, broke into a wide smile and said, “Jeff Maggert, my favorite player on the PGA Tour Champions.”
During the awards presentation, Maggert joked, “I like expensive red wine, and I like even more expensive now.”
McCarron opened with a bogey Sunday but then birdied five of seven holes, starting at No. 4, before stumbling on the back nine in shooting 3-over 38 for 71 and a tie for 27th. He finished with 2,592,265 points, which were 81,401 more than Kelly.
Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion who turned 50 in February, finished third with 2,290,985 points. He was followed by Langer (2,247,435 points), seeking a sixth Cup title, who closed with 67 that included a hole-in-one at No. 8 for a tie for fourth with Colin Montgomerie (2,100,177), who holed a bunker shot on the 18th hole for an eagle to close with 65. Points were doubled for the season finale.
While Maggert couldn’t win the Schwab Cup (he finished 31st with 702,693 points), McCarron was especially interested in what Maggert was doing because he had plenty of effect on the final standings. McCarron got excited when Maggert made a 20-foot, par-saving putt from the fringe on the 15th hole to retain a one-stroke lead. After Maggert narrowly missed an 8-foot birdie putt at No. 16, Goosen made a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th hole to tie for the lead at 20 under and move to No. 1 in the standings.
But both were clutch on the 18th hole to force the playoff, which ended on an extraordinary note as Maggert earned his first title in 97 starts.
After shooting 1-under 35 on the front nine, Kelly birdied the 10th, 13th, 15th holes to momentarily snare the points lead. But two pars dropped him out of the top spot, and not even a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole could get him enough points to win the Schwab Cup title.
Despite being slowed early in 2019 by injuries, Kelly, 52, finished his best pro season with 14 Top-10 finishes in 23 starts, including victories in the SAS Championship, American Family Insurance Championship and Ally Challenge in Grand Blanc, Mich., not far from his hometown of Madison, Wisc. He also finished second in the Regions Tradition, tied for second in the U.S. Senior Open Championship and Mitsubisha Electric Classic, finished third in the Principal Charity Classic, shared third in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and Boeing Classic, finished fifth in the KitchenAir Senior PGA and tied for seventh in the Insperity Invitational and Mastercard Japan Championship.
Petrovic shot 67 to tie for 21st at 276, finishing 20th in the Schwab Cup race with 938,278 points. Rhode Island native Billy Andrade shot 67 to tie for 14th at 273 and finish 12th in the Cup race 1,417,071 points.
The Charles Schwab Cup is a season-long, earnings-based competition launched in 2001 to determine the PGA Tour Champions’ top player. It concludes with three events in the playoffs.
The finale had several nice touches on Veterans Day as American flags hung from every flagstick and military personnel greeted players at the 18th hole. Helicopters also occasionally buzzed the course from a nearby National Guard outpost.