It was a double dip for Nike Golf athletes at both pro events this past weekend, with Stewart Cink hoisting the claret jug at The Open Championship, and Bo Van Pelt claiming his first PGA Tour victory at The U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
Stewart Cink managed to outlast fan favorite Tom Watson, winning in a four-hole playoff. Stewart had a strong first three days, quietly hanging around the top of the leader board, keeping himself in position for a Sunday charge. On Sunday Stewart completed the front nine in even par, with seven pars, a birdie and a bogey to stay at one under par. On the back nine he went back and forth between bogeys and birdies (with two pars mixed in), getting back to two under after 13 holes. He then went bogey, birdie, bogey, and with a makeable birdie putt at the par 5 17th, it looked as though he might battle back to -2. The putt missed to the right, so Stewart headed to 18 at one under. He was able to put his approach shot on 18 pin high about 15 feet right of the cup, and after stroking his putt, with the ball half-way to the hole, Cink raised his putter as he new it was on line to go in. The putt dropped, Cink posted two under as the score to beat and the game was on.
Other players including Chris Wood and Lee Westwood had chances to post at two under but failed to do so. So it came down to Tom Watson — the leader all four days of the Open, the story of the tournament — who was at three under coming to 18, with a one shot lead with one hole to play. His approach shot ran just through the green, and taking putter from the back fringe he ran his attempt about eight feet past the hole. Needing that putt to make par and win the championship, the golf world held its collective breath as Tom took the putter back — let’s face it, any golf fan worth his salt was rooting for Watson to win. The putt drifted short and right of the hole, and to a playoff we went.
Starting at the par four 5th, Watson bogeyed the first playoff hole, Cink made par, and Stewart took a one shot lead. Both parred the par three 6th hole, and they moved on to the par five 17th. A wayward drive off the tee spelled disaster for Watson, and an end to his dream of a sixth claret jug and ninth major championship, as he double-bogeyed the hole. Cink birdied to take a four shot lead to 18. Watson bogeyed 18, and Cink finished in style with another birdie to secure the gold medal, and title of champion golfer of the year. But he did so with mixed emotions, taking down the overwhelming crowd favorite and an amazing story in Tom Watson’s run at the championship, the headline that will be remembered from this year’s Open Championship.
Meanwhile back in Milwaukee… The PGA Tour’s opposite field event was The U.S. Bank Championship held at Brown Deere Park Golf Course. Bo Van Pelt took the clubhouse lead at 13 under par, while John Mallinger, after bogeying the 17th hole to drop to -12, needed eagle on the par five 18th to win or birdie to tie for a playoff. He made birdie, and we went to the second playoff of the day.
Both Mallinger and Van Pelt were vying for their first PGA Tour wins, so you know their nerves were on edge. But both hit the fairway on the first playoff hole (the 18th), Mallinger was just short of the green with his approach shot, but Van Pelt hit the green. Mallinger then chipped up and had about an 8-footer for birdie. Van Pelt’s eagle bid slid right of the cup, but he tapped in for birdie. Mallinger made his putt for birdie and back to the 18th tee they went. Both hit the fairway again, but this time Mallinger found the front right bunker, and Van Pelt again was on the green with a long eagle putt. Mallinger’s bunker shot ended up outside of Van Pelt’s eagle attempt, so he putted up and tapped in for par, clearing the stage for Bo. Van Pelt left his eagle putt short enough to make his birdie putt for the win interesting, but he drilled it into the center of the cup for his first PGA Tour victory — congratulations Bo! The Milwaukee event is a terrific one, and we hope the PGA Tour can secure a sponsor and we can see it on the 2010 schedule.
So it was a great weekend for the Swoosh on the links. Congratulations again to Stewart Cink and Bo Van Pelt on their victories. You can click here to see how the rest of the Nike Golf athletes fared this weekend.