Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
September 25, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie made a 15-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole of the Mountain Course Sunday evening to claim the inaugural Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, securing his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and sending California’s Scott McCarron, who led for most of the tournament, home with a second place finish.
McCarron held a one-stroke lead on the final hole of regulation, but after missing the fairway with his drive, was forced to take an unplayable lie. He landed on the green in four and then narrowly missed a par putt that would have given him the title, but instead, sent he and Montgomerie to a playoff at 15-under-par.
Montgomerie also had some work to do in regulation to force the playoff, as he shorted his approach shot on the 18th hole into the front trap and then made a great bunker shot to get up and down for his par.
After the first two playoff holes solved nothing, on the third, McCarron landed his approach shot short of the green and had to chip on from the fringe for an up and down to save par. Montgomerie meanwhile, landed his approach on the right fringe and then calmly drained the birdie putt for the win.
Montgomerie started the day three strokes behind McCarron, but birdies on three of the first four holes cut the deficit to just one. He gained a share of the lead on No. 5 when McCarron made bogey, and he took his first solo lead when he birdied No. 10. Montgomerie made his only bogey of the tournament on the 12th hole Sunday, ending a streak of 47 bogey-free holes and the two would remain tied until 17 when McCarron got up-and-down for birdie on the short par-4 17th, taking the one-stroke lead to the 18th tee and setting the stage for the four holes of drama that followed.
“My game plan was obviously to catch as quick as possible and that’s what was achieved,” said Montgomerie after his win. “Scott made a mistake at the third when he three-putted and I happened to birdie and there was a two-shot swing. And then we were tied all of a sudden, so that was great to get early on. And then I just had ample opportunities – 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 – my only bogey of the week was the easiest hole on the course, the 12th, for goodness sake. And then chances at 16, 17, 18 here, just didn’t go in. And then you end up in a playoff and again, how many chances can one have? Another two chances in the playoff that didn’t go in, and you think ‘Oh for God’s sake, the bloody hell again.’ And then eventually, thank God, one finally goes in. As I said in my [trophy acceptance] speech, that was the only one my caddie read all week. I should have used him earlier, we would have finished much sooner!”
In addition to Montgomerie’s and McCarron’s back and forth battle, two other notables – Miguel Angel Jiminez and Bernhard Langer made runs at the leaders on Sunday.
Jiminez established a new course record of 61 – also the lowest round on the tour this season – but pars on his final four holes meant he finished at 13-under-par, in third place, two strokes back.
Langer meanwhile had a scorching start to the day, opening the front nine with a 28. He then birdied 10 and 12 and was 9-under-par on the day through 12 holes, pulling to within one stroke of the lead at 13-under-par. However, he bladed his approach shot over the green on the par-5 13th, leading to a double bogey and settled for a score of 63 overall and in a tie for 7th place at 12-under-par.
With the win, his first ever in a three-round tournament, Montgomerie moves to fifth on the Charles Schwab Cup Money List ($1,216,318). His 2016 season now includes seven top 10s in 17 starts. This was the third time Montgomerie played in Sunday’s final group this season, and this was the first time he emerged victorious.
This was McCarron’s first playoff appearance on PGA TOUR Champions. With the runner-up finish, McCarron moved from No. 11 to No. 8 on the money list ($1,100,935). He now has five top 10s this season, including one victory (Principal Charity Classic) and two runner-up finishes.
Rod Spittle carded a bogey-free 66 Sunday, lifting him into a tie for 38th to lead the quartet of Canadians in the field. He was followed by Jim Rutledge (T41, 73-69-68 – 210), Stephen Ames (T54, 74-69-69 – 212) and Murray Poje (78th, 82-79-73 – 234).