US Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman missed the opportunity yesterday to jump to seventh in his team’s qualification standings for next month’s clash with Europe, after losing out to his Hawaiian-born compatriot Dean Wilson in a playoff for the International at Castle Pines, Colorado.
Wilson triumphed at the second extra hole after both men finished on 34 points in the modified Stableford scoring competition. He had led for most of the final round after picking up 12 points on the last day, before Lehman rolled back the years by carding three birdies in the final six holes to force the playoff. The 36-year-old Wilson fired a birdie on the second extra hole to secure the victory, his first on the USPGA Tour.
Wilson’s previous best finish was third place at this year’s Texas Open. He gained his USPGA Tour Card in 2002, having served a lengthy apprenticeship in Asia where he was victorious six times on the Japanese Tour. Yesterday was by far his biggest victory and his most lucrative payday – in addition to the prestigious title he will bank a winner’s cheque for $990,000.
“Coming from Hawaii there is always an internal battle in trying to compete with everyone from the mainland,” a proud Wilson said after lifting the trophy.
“When I said that I wanted to play on the Tour it seemed like I was hearing a lot of people say that it couldn’t be done. I finally got my Tour Card four years ago at the age of 32. It was quite a battle and it is really satisfying to be here holding the trophy.”
Wilson also pointed out the fact that the scoring system at the International helped him significantly. Five points are scored for eagles, two for birdies, minus-one for bogeys and minus-three for double bogeys or worse. Had the tournament been played as a traditional strokeplay event he would have finished four strokes behind Lehman.
“I’m satisfied with how I’ve played this weekend,” reflected Lehman, who was aiming to become the first US Ryder Cup captain to win a USPGA Tour event since Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters.
“We play to win though and there’s no fun in finishing second.”
America’s Steve Flesch and Japan’s Daisuke Maruyama finsished in a tie for third place on 32 points, while Spain’s Sergio Garcia fired a disappointing final round of 75 to drop from seventh place to twenty-ninth.