Woody Austin snatches title with closing 62
Woody Austin turned around a miserable year with the perfect round at the right time.
Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia came in hoping to tune up for the U.S. Open with a victory, only to watch Austin run away with the warmup act.
Trailing by four strokes at the start of Sunday's play, Austin shot the best closing round on tour this year in winning the Stanford St. Jude Championship by five strokes for his first PGA Tour victory since 2004 and third overall.
His 8-under 62 was the best final round of his career and best in the 50 years of this event. It also was the tour's lowest closing round since Brad Faxon's 61 at the 2006 Buick Championship.
"That was a true round of golf and was one of those surprises that we all get every once in a while," Austin said as he waited for the final group to finish. "I'm just happy it happened to me on a Sunday when it really mattered."
John Daly shot a 79 and finished 79th in the 80-player field. Playing on a sponsor's exemption and tied for eighth after the first 18, he shocked everyone Friday by accusing his wife, Sherrie, of waking him up by attacking him with a steak knife at his home near the course.
Austin had never finished better than a tie for 44th in his previous trips to the TPC Southwind course. He has struggled this year, missing five cuts with his only top-25 showing coming with a tie for 18th in New Orleans in April.
"I played one of those dream rounds of golf," Austin said.
He took home the $1.08 million winner's check, his first since the 2004 Buick Championship, with the best round this week. Austin also won the 1995 Buick Open.
Austin finished the final 49 holes bogey-free and carded an eagle and six birdies Sunday for a 13-under 267 total on a course where he had missed five cuts.
This tournament featured its strongest field in years with six of the top 12 players in the world. They all came wanting to prep for the Open under tournament pressure.
But Garcia finished before the leaders teed off, Singh wasn't far behind, and Scott -- the world's fourth-ranked player -- blew a three-stroke lead and missed the chance to be the first wire-to-wire winner on tour this year.
Scott shot a 75 and finished seventh at 276.
"I'm going to be hard on myself. I really should be," said Scott, who would have moved up a notch to No. 3 with a victory.
Brian Davis (66) was second with a 272, followed by two-time Memphis winner David Toms (69-273), Brian Gay (70-274) and Brandt Snedeker and Dean Wilson, who tied with 68s for 275.
A self-taught player, Austin said he felt he was running out of time after turning 43 in January.
But he started figuring out some of his swing problems at Colonial two weeks ago and had been working with caddie Brent Henley to bring his irons to the inside on his downswing rather than his takeaway.
"I played pretty good last week at Memorial, but just didn't get much out of what I was doing. I just kept working on the range this week, and it clicked," Austin said.
He became the fifth player in his 40s to win on tour this year, and his five-stroke victory matches the largest margin this year. Phil Mickelson, who withdrew from the event to allow a sore wrist to heal for the Open, also won by five at the AT&T Pebble Beach.
Playing in the group ahead of Scott, Austin birdied the par-4 401-yard No. 2, then holed out from 64 yards on the par-5, 554-yard No. 3 to pull within a stroke of Scott. He took the lead for himself at 9 under by rolling in a birdie putt from nearly 28 feet out on the par-4 No. 10.
Scott had a great chance to swing the momentum back his way when he got relief from a sprinkler head in the rough at back of the par-3, No. 11 island green. He stroked in a 32-footer for his first birdie and tied Austin at 9 under.
Austin answered with a birdie putt from nearly 19 feet on the par-4 No. 12 to go to 10 under, and he stuck his tee shot on the par-3 No. 14 within 3 feet for birdie and a two-stroke lead. He birdied the par-4 17th and celebrated with a fist pump.
"Starting on No. 7, I just hit every iron where I wanted," he said.
Meanwhile, Scott fell apart.
He yanked his tee shot into the long grass right on the par-4 No. 13 and missed a 5-footer for par off the lip for his first bogey on the back nine this week. Scott then yanked his tee shot on the 14th right into the lake guarding the green. He triple-putted for triple bogey and fell back to 6 under.
"I hit one I'm not ready to hit, and I did that on 14," Scott said. "I've got to keep that in the memory next week."
Now Austin will go to Oakmont Country Club to see if he can become the first player to capture the Open after winning the week before. Austin had to qualify by playing in Ohio earlier this week, and he is looking forward to a course he thinks fits him well.
"That's always been my one tournament I felt like I could always play and the fact that I'm now getting close to where I feel like my game is coming around, that's just going to give me that much more confidence," Austin said.