Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SANDY — The odds were stacked mountain-high against Doug LaBelle II.
After 54-holes at Willow Creek Country Club during the Web.com Tour's Utah Championship, LaBelle was five strokes off the pace behind Michael Putnam.
"I felt like I had to shoot 7- or 8-under (Sunday) to have a chance to win," Labelle said.
But as Putnam's wheels began to unscrew, LaBelle realized, maybe — just maybe, he had an outside shot to pull off the comeback.
"I'm a guy that knows every dollar matters," he said. "Every shot matters and I'm not going to give up."
LaBelle rallied on the back nine, eventually shooting a 3-under-68, and closed out his first win on tour since 2006 with a 5-foot par-putt on No.18 Sunday.
"It just feels really good," LaBelle said after receiving an emblazoned check for $99,000. "My putting and short game haven't been as sharp as my long game. It's been pretty frustrating to play some really good golf but not win. So, to make enough putts this week to come out on top, obviously with some help from Michael Putnam, I'm ecstatic."
With the win, LaBelle moved from No. 92 to 14 on the money list. The top 25 players on the Web.com tour automatically earn PGA Tour cards for the 2013 season.
LaBelle finished with a total stroke count of 269, breaking 70 all four rounds — penciling scores of 64-68-69-68. But even so, the win was unexpected.
"Very shocked," LaBelle said when asked if he was surprised 15-under was enough to win. "Especially the way Michael has been playing all week. I'm very surprised to be sitting here but you just never know."
With Putnam struggling, four others — including LaBelle — made a surge towards the top of the leaderboard.
James Hahn quickly stirred chatter around the course, drawing a massive crowd after three straight birdies to open the round. With a front nine-30 and birdies on Nos. 10 and 12, Hahn moved into a tie for first at 15-under.
However, Hahn proceeded to miss birdie putts on holes Nos. 13, 14 and 15, all within 10-feet. Yet, still, he only needed to shoot even on the par-3 No. 18. But, his tee shot sailed well-right not allowing him to get up-and-down.
Strangely, he attributed the poor first shot to trying something new during the most inopportune moment.
"I was trying a new shot. I usually hit it straight, I just wanted to hit a fade," Hahn said. "I figured the best time to practice that is in competition.
"I'm not scared to hit that shot, granted I hit a horrible shot — nine out of 10 times I'd so the same thing," Hahn continued. "It's a shot that I need out there on the big tour. Everything here is just preparation for the next step."
In the group following Hahn, Scott Gutschewski approached the par-5 17th green at 14-under, resting 80-feet on the front fringe for eagle.
Uncomfortable with a nearby sprinkler he requested a rules judge. After 5-minutes of unsuccessful attempts to reach a ruling, Gutschewski elected to putt anyway.
His lag-putt died quickly, leaving him with a breaking 8-footer for birdie, a putt he missed, forcing him to settle for an ugly-par.
"I guess me and (my caddy) talked it out and we didn't need it," Gutschewski said when asked why he didn't wait. "It was a precaution."
Sam Saunders also charged up the back nine, firing a 5-under-31. On No. 18, he placed his tee shot on the back edge for a long, downhill birdie putt that could have forced a potential playoff, but cruised 10-feet past.
Each scenario wouldn't have been possible without Putnam. The 2010 Utah Championship winner had a four-stroke lead. In 19 registered rounds at Willow Creek, he had tallied 18 of par or better, and 13 in the 60s.
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