Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SANDY — Steven Alker knew how winning the Utah Championship could potentially influence his career and especially the remainder of his Web.com Tour season. Although occasionally creeping into his mind, he attempted to deflect the distraction while trying to make as many birdies as possible.
In the end, however, all he needed was a par putt. Alker sunk a 5-foot par putt on the No. 18 hole in a one-hole playoff against Ashley Hall to capture the $112,500 first-place check for winning the Utah Championship on Sunday afternoon.
After 72 holes, he and Hall finished at 22-under par.
“Well obviously it changes my schedule a little bit in terms of what I play the rest of the year and where I’m sitting and my focus,” Alker said. “Obviously the focus is always PGA Tour and to get up in the top 25. It’s been a little bit of a struggle this year. I haven’t played in a lot of tournaments, and this changes things. It’s pretty huge and it was kind of hard out there to not think about it. I just kept my head down and put the blinkers on.”
Alker, who entered the week No. 262 on the money list with $28,961 in yearly earnings, battled back from shooting an even-par 71 in the opening round with scores of 64, 61 and a 5-under-66 on Sunday.
“It’s exciting. I (was) just trying to stay as calm as I (could) today and make as many birdies as I could because I knew there had been some low scores on the week,” Alker said. “Someone from four or five back could come through and pick up the tournament. It’s just a matter of keeping your head down and making as many birdies as I could.”
Alker started 4 under through five holes with birdies at Nos. 1 and 5 and an eagle at No. 3 when he snaked a 25-foot putt after reaching safely in two with a 5-wood. Unlike the majority of the leaders, he didn’t have to return early to complete the third round that was postponed due to inclement weather Saturday.
“Maybe a lot. The guys like Chad (Collins) had maybe eight, nine holes this morning,” Alker said when asked if not having to return early benefited him. “It was warm and was a long day. It was probably a blessing in disguise that I got done yesterday.”
Collins held the 54-hole lead at 19-under but only managed three birdies while bogeying the par-3 No. 5. He lipped birdie putts at Nos. 16 and 17.
“I just couldn’t get it going today,” Collins said. “I’m really disappointed in my putts on 16 and 17. On 16 it was a 7-footer, and on 17 it was a 5-footer. I’m disappointed, but this is something to move forward on. Overall I’m happy with the week. If you would have told me at the beginning of the week that I was going to tie for third, was going to shoot 60, shoot 27 for nine holes, heck yeah I’ll take that.”
Collins' record-setting 60 on Friday was outdone, however, by Will Wilcox Sunday, who tied for third at 21-under. Wilcox penciled 10 birdies and an eagle to break the course record with a 12-under 59.
Hall positioned himself to take the lead with a birdie on No. 14. On the par-3 No. 15 he stroked his tee shot 6 feet to the pin, but left the putt wide left before finishing with three straight pars.
In the playoff he drowned his tee shot in the lake. He eventually put pressure on Alker with a great penalty shot that created a routine bogey putt.
“I took one less (club) than in regulation. I was a little big in between clubs,” Hall said. “I wanted to give myself a putt. It was the right club — I just hit a poor shot. It was a 7-iron in regulation and 8 in the playoff.”
Alker proceeded to play it safe by overshooting into the middle of the green to set up a 2-putt-to-win scenario.
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