Trevor Immelman rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole Sunday to win the Hotel Fitness Championship, wrapping up his PGA TOUR card in the first of four events in the new Web.com Tour Finals.
Immelman posted a final-day 66 at Sycamore Hills Golf Club to finish at 20 under, one shot better than 54-hole leader Patrick Cantlay, who missed an 8-foot birdie on the last hole that would have forced a playoff with the 2008 Masters champion.
“There’s no doubt this is huge for me. It’s been a long, frustrating road for me,” said Immelman, who finished No. 143 on the FedExCup points list and lost his TOUR card for the upcoming 2013-14 season. “It was so disappointing to lose my card. I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled since 2008. I’ve been wondering if I’d be able to get back to playing the way I know I can play.”
Aussie Scott Gardiner (68) and Kevin Kisner (70) tied for third, two shots back. John Peterson (64) and Bud Cauley (69) were three off the pace.
Immelman had made only 12 of 24 cuts this year and his lone top-10 effort was a T9 at the RBC Heritage.
“I started playing much better the last couple of months but ran into some troubles here and there on the weekends,” he said. “I started seeing so many nice signs that this may be turning around. To be honest, up until this week the only real positive I could take out of it was that I am injury free.”
Immelman started the final round five shots back of the 21-year old Cantlay, who has been dealing with back issues that forced him to miss much of the season.
“I had a number of 8-under 64 in my mind,” said the winner. “Patrick was playing so well and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t continue that today. I figured I’d have to shoot something like 64 to have a shot today.”
His 66 was good enough because Cantlay was the only player in the final top 17 not to post a sub-par score.
“I didn’t hit it very well today. I missed a lot of greens and I didn’t make any putts,” said Cantlay, who won early in the year at the Colombia Championship in Bogota. “I’m not going to blame my play on my back because I played well all week despite it. Putting doesn’t have anything to do with my back.”
Immelman jumped into the fray with an eagle at No. 2 and then back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5 and 6. A birdie at No. 12 put him right in the middle of things with Cauley, who saw his chances derailed with a double-bogey 7 at No. 15. Cantlay, meanwhile, stumbled with three bogeys in four holes as he made the turn.
“I had no clue where I was all day,” said Immelman, who also staggered slightly with a bogey at No. 15. “That bogey slowed me down but I knew I had to keep it going.”
Playing 30 minutes in front of the final pairing, Immelman plunked a 9-iron from 170 yards to within striking distance on the final green.
“My caddie and I looked at it and we had it read the same way,” Immelman said. “As it crested the hill and started to straighten out and by the time it got to the hole it was perfect.”
The top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list last week after the Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha already earned PGA TOUR cards for the 2013-14 season, while Nos. 26-75 are fighting with Nos. 126-200 in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup standings for 25 additional cards in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals series. With the $180,000 first-place check, Immelman — 143rd in the FedExCup standings — is guaranteed to get one of those cards.
“I think my wife and family truly understands how frustrating things were for me. This is really sweet and I’m going to enjoy it,” said Immelman as he donned a second green jacket, this one courtesy of the Western Golf Association, the host organization.