FARMINGTON — For Brice Garnett, Sunday’s victory at the Utah Championship means he’ll be heading back to the big-time, the PGA Tour, which is the goal of every golfer on the Web.com Tour.
Garnett has played two seasons on the PGA Tour, but he lost his status in 2015 and had toiled on the Web.com Tour for the past two seasons. But thanks to his victory Sunday at Oakridge Country Club, Garnett will almost certainly be headed back to the PGA Tour next year.
With his victory and the $126,000 first prize, second largest on the Web.com Tour, he moved from 57th on the money list to No. 12 with $182,142 earnings on the year. The top 25 money winners on the year get promotions to the PGA Tour.
Garnett leapfrogged through a crowded leaderboard with a final-round 65 that gave him a 21-under-par 263 total and a one-stroke victory over third-round co-leader Rob Oppenheim, Abraham Ancer and Austin Cook.
“It’s huge,” Garnett said about the likelihood of heading back to the PGA Tour. “I’m extremely happy. It’s been awhile coming. Everything went my way today, and that’s what happens when you win.”
For Garnett, it was a bit of a surprise to be holding the big trophy afterwards because he thought he would need to shoot a 63 at the start of the day due to the crowded leaderboard.
The 33-year-old from Missouri started the day three shots off the lead, trailing four golfers and was in a group of five tied for fifth, with another seven golfers a stroke behind him.
“My number today was 23-under,” he said. “I knew it was possible. It was one shot at a time, grind and make birdies. I went to 21 and things went my way.”
For a while, the tournament looked to be Oppenheim’s as he started off with a chip-in eagle at No. 1 and got to 4-under on the day by the seventh hole, 22-under for the tournament.
“That was a dream start and I said, maybe this is going to be special day,” he said of his 139-yard wedge shot that went in the hole for an eagle.
However, he missed the fairway at No. 9 and three-putted from 30 feet for bogey. Then at 11, he hit a poor tee shot at the par-3 and ended up way right of the green. His chip went past the hole into a bunker and he wasn’t able to get up and down for his bogey.
“I kind of made a mess out of it (on 12),” Oppenheim said. “On a course when guys are shooting low, you can’t afford a double.”
He bounced back with a birdie at No. 13 and had a chance to tie at No. 18 with a birdie. But his chip from 20 feet just missed after hitting the hole and he had to settle for a tie for second and $52,500, which moved him up to 31st on the money list.
“It wasn’t to be today and hopefully I’ll have some more opportunities the rest of the year,” he said.
Ancer, a 26-year-old from Mexico, posted a 63 early in the day and then sat back to watch as players had a hard time surpassing his 20-under score. He had showered and was sitting in the players’ lounge in a red T-shirt and tennis shoes when the Golf Channel summoned him for an interview. He threw on a golf shirt and said he was ready for a playoff if necessary. But it turned out he came up a shot short and was able to make his 8:20 p.m. flight out of Salt Lake after all.
Two-time Utah Open champion Nate Lashley shot a 6-under-par 65 and finished in a five-way tie at 19-under 265 with third-round co-leader Jacques Blaauw, Blake Adams, Ben Silverman and Denny McCarthy. Three others, Jeff Gove, Jon Curran and Andrew Landry, finished at 266.
TOURNEY NOTES: This was the first year for the Utah Championship at Oakridge after two years at Thanksgiving Point and 16 years at Willow Creek Country Club. The tournament is put on by the Utah Sports Commission, and Zions Bank is the presenting sponsor. Last year’s winning score at Thanksgiving Point was 15-under-par 269. The last three winners of the Utah Championship are playing on the PGA Tour this year. Last year’s winner, Nicholas Lindheim, ranks No. 186 in FedEx points, 2015 winner Patton Kizzire ranks 90th and 2014 winner Andres Gonzales ranks 165th. The worst score among players who made the cut was still 5-under-par, Max Marsico, who finished at 279.