MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Brian Gay played his way into the U.S. Open in his last possible chance, completing a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the St. Jude Classic.
Gay earned his berth at Bethpage Black with his second win in his last five events and third of his career. He beat David Toms and Bryce Molder by five strokes to grab the Open exemption as a multiple winner in the last calendar year.
He grabbed the US$1,008,000 winner’s check at TPC Southwind in runaway style, too.
Gay led by only a stroke after each of the first three rounds, then shot a third straight 4-under 66 to pull away. He birdied three of the first six holes to take all the suspense out of the final round, and birdied the 18th to finish at 18-under 262.
Phil Mickelson, in his first event since announcing wife Amy has breast cancer, and John Daly, returning from a six-month PGA Tour suspension, tied for 59th at 1 over. Mickelson closed with a 75, and Daly shot a 70.
Toms finished with a 65, and Molder had a 70. John Senden (64), Paul Goydos (68) and Robert Allenby (69) tied for fourth at 12 under.
“It was a pretty good golf tournament except for one guy stealing the show,” said Toms, the tournament winner in 2003 and 2004.
It wasn’t as large a victory as April when Gay won by 10 at Hilton Head. It just felt like that on a day where no one could get close enough on wet fairways that stopped balls with almost no roll. Officials had moved up the start by four hours hoping to beat incoming storms that popped up in the morning to delay the start of the final round — by four hours. It didn’t rain again.
And Gay put away the win with his putter.
He needed only 100 putts to become only the fourth wire-to-wire winner in the tournament’s 52-year history and the first since Justin Leonard in 2005. The others include Bob Estes in 2001 and Dave Hill in 1967 — back when the event was played at old Colonial.