HARTFORD, Conn. – While most of the golf world was focused on a revived Tiger Woods on Sunday, Tim Petrovic continued his improbable climb into the PGA Tour Champions elite.
The native of Glastonbury, Conn., birdied three of the last four holes, including No. 18 on a 22-foot putt, to shoot a closing, 5-under-par 65, the low of the day, and tie Jerry Smith for second in the inaugural Sanford International in Sioux Falls, S.D. Petrovic and Smith finished 54 holes at 9-under 201, four behind winner Steve Stricker.
The final round was moved up two hours to accommodate Stricker, who departed immediately after his win for Atlanta to start his duties as a vice captain to Jim Furyk for the United States team that will face Europe in the Ryder Cup starting Friday at Le Golf National in Paris, France. Stricker was heartily greeted by the U.S. team when he arrived in Atlanta just hours after his third PGA Tour Champions title in only seven starts.
But even Stricker had to admit the biggest buzz of the day was Woods ending a five-year victory drought with a two-stroke win over Billy Horschel in the Tour Championship in suburban Atlanta. Several U.S. players stayed at East Lake Golf Club late Sunday to congratulate Woods and they then gathered at the hotel for a team dinner before jumping on a plane that landed in France at 12:45 p.m. local time Monday.
Now the Americans’ goal is to end a drought that’s five times longer than Tiger’s, winning the Ryder Cup on foreign soil. It has been 25 years since the U.S. has defeated Europe on the road, but Furyk couldn’t have asked for a better momentum boost than Woods winning after being uncertain about his golfing future a year ago. Having Stricker bring another trophy to the team room was a big bonus.
“Nice to have those two guys play so well, and you know, start us off pretty well this week,” Furyk said Monday from Le Golf National.
European captain Thomas Bjorn, hoping to avoid any potential bulletin board material, did not want to be dismissive of Tiger’s accomplishment, but he also sought to emphasize that this is a different week, with a completely different set of factors.
“I spent 25 years playing professional golf with Tiger Woods on the scene, and anytime he does anything great, that’s a story and that’s where we want to see him,” said Bjorn, who has FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose of England on his side. “We want to see him at the top of the game. He does so much for the game of golf. Watching that last night, I thought it was brilliant to watch. It was great for the greater aspect of the game.
“Coming into this week, these are 24 of the best players in the world and this tournament is what it is. … It has its history and it’s a great battle and it is 12 against 12, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Furyk agreed individual success one week can only go so far at a team event the following week. He said Tiger – initially a vice-captain until Furyk made him a captain’s pick earlier this month — has already switched gears mentally.
“He won yesterday as an individual, and I know how much that means to him and how important it was,” Furyk said, “but he’s flipped that page pretty quickly and is really excited to join his teammates and move forward in that process.”
Petrovic, 52, inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2017, isn’t even listed among the players on the PGA Tour Champions website but now has four top-10 finishes this year and is 10th on the money list with $1,154,400 after earning $144,000 on Sunday. He earlier finished second in the Chubb Classic and fifth in the 3M Championship and tied for second in the U.S. Senior Open with former University of Hartford teammate Jerry Kelly and Angel Miguel Jimenez.
“I gave myself a C the first day, I gave myself a B the second day and an A (on Sunday),” Petrovic said. “I think I managed my thought process a little bit better. I said this at the (Senior) PGA – if I could play better, you know, it’s hard to try less, try not to try, but it’s hard to get in that zone and I got in that zone today.”
Petrovic’s lone victory on the PGA Tour came in a playoff with Massachusetts native James Driscoll in the 2005 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He won the New England Amateur in 1986 and the Connecticut State Golf Association Amateur Championship in 1988.
Kelly shot 210 to tie for 39th but remained third on the money list with $1,643,458 behind Jimenez ($1,746,868) and Scott McCarron ($1,693,208). Former Rhode Islanders P.H. Horgan III (211, tie for 45th) and Billy Andrade (215, tie for 59th) and Massachusetts native Fran Quinn (217, 67th) also cashed.
HENRY, STEGMAIER LOSE CARDS
Fairfield native J.J. Henry withdrew from the final round of the Web.Com Tour Championship on Sunday, meaning he does not have full-time tour playing privileges for the first time since joining the PGA Tour in 2001. He was three PGA Tour wins, including the 2005 Buick Championship, now Travelers Championship.
Madison native Brett Stegmaier also missed the cut Sunday so he, too, lost his card after three years on tour. Henry and Stegmaier both will have full-time status on the Web.Com Tour in 2019.
PGA TOUR NOMINEES ANNOUNCED
The PGA Tour announced its six nominees for Player of the Year and five for Rookie of the Year. The nominees for the Jack Nicklaus Award as the Player of the Year are Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari and Justin Thomas.
The nominees for Rookie of the Year are Austin Cook, Satoshi Kodaira, Keith Mitchell, Joaquin Niemann and Aaron Wise. The awards are determined by a member vote, with PGA Tour members who played in at least 15 FedEx Cup events during the 2017-18 season eligible to vote. The voting will close on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced at a later date.