Cincinnati native claims first PGA TOUR Champions win, fights off Bernhard Langer and Scott Parel in extra holes.
- April 14, 2018
By The Associated Press
DULUTH, Ga. (AP) — Steve Flesch needed 38 holes Saturday to win the Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his first PGA TOUR Champions victory.
The 50-year-old Flesch won with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff with Scott Parel at TPC Sugarloaf in the event completed a day early because of Sunday’s forecast for heavy rain and lightning. Bernhard Langer was eliminated on the first extra hole.
“You never know if you’re ever going to win again,” Flesch said. “Honestly, it’s been harder than I anticipated winning on this tour. The guys are so good. That Langer guy is hard to beat.”
Parel bogeyed the par-5 18th on the second playoff hole after his approach hit the bank short and left and went into the water.
“I just was in between clubs a little bit,” Parel said. “I had like 209 (yards), which is probably about as bad a yardage that I can have, so I had to kind of choke up on a hybrid a little bit and not try to hit it too hard. If I hit it right, a normal shot’s going to be in the bunker, which is no bargain. I just didn’t hit it as crisply as I needed to.”
Flesch hit long and right into the back bunker, and blasted out to 3 feet. The left-hander won in his 22nd start on PGA TOUR Champions after winning four times on the PGA TOUR.
“When Scott hit it in the water, the most important thing for me was to obviously not hit it in the water.” Flesch said. “So, I just changed my line where I aimed. I didn’t aim it as close to the hole. I made sure that my mistake was going to be long in the bunker and just clear the water.”
Facing a forecast of 1 1/2 inches of rain overnight and the threat of lightning Sunday, tournament officials decided Friday to play both the second and third (final) rounds Saturday.
“Any 36-hole day is really tough,” Flesch said. “It’s more mentally taxing to me than physically taxing, especially if you’re in the mix kind of like that all day. I know I’ll sleep great tonight, but mentally I’m more exhausted than physically.”
Because of the possibility of the playoff finishing Sunday, the players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway during the extra holes.
Flesch and Parel birdied the 18th to start the playoff. Flesch and Parel each reached the green in two, with Parel leaving a 60-foot eagle try 3 feet short, and Flesch rolling a 50-footer to a foot. Langer laid up and missed a 15-foot birdie try.
Parel matched the course record with an 8-under 64, making a 15-foot birdie putt on 18 in regulation to post at 11 under. Flesch and Langer missed chances to win on 18 in regulation. Flesch missed a long eagle try, and Langer’s 15-foot birdie putt went to the left. Flesch shot 68, and Langer had a 69.
Flesch opened with a 66 and shot 71 in the morning to enter the final round a stroke behind Langer, Jay Haas and Jerry Kelly.
The 52-year-old Parel’s only tour victory came in 2013 on the Web.com Tour.
“Obviously, I would have liked to win, but Steve played great, too, and hit some great shots in the playoff.” Parel said. “He deserved it. I feel like I’m close, so we’ll just keep trying to make birdies out here and see what happens.”
Langer missed a chance to break a tie with Hale Irwin for consecutive seasons with a victory at 12. The 60-year-old German star has 36 PGA TOUR Champions victories, winning at TPC Sugarloaf in 2013.
“I’ve been playing all right for most of the year, just my short game wasn’t good enough,” Langer said. “The short game was better, I made a few putts.”
Haas, the first-round leader after a 65 at age 64, shot 71-71 on Saturday to finish two strokes out of the playoff. He dropped back with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16. Mike Fetchick is the oldest winner in PGA TOUR Champions history, taking the 1985 Hilton Head Seniors Invitational at 63 years to the day.
Wes Short Jr. was fifth at 8 under after a 70, and Vijay Singh had a 68 to get to 7 under.
Steve Flesch, 66-71-68—205 (-11)
• Steve Flesch claimed his first professional win since the 2007 Turning Stone Resort Championship, a span of 169 starts (148 PGA TOUR, 21 PGA TOUR Champions). With this victory, he becomes the 14th player to own a title on the Web.com Tour, PGA TOUR, and PGA TOUR Champions.
• This victory marked Flesch’s first top-10 since finishing T7 at the 2017 Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, a span of nine starts.
• Flesch has four top-10s in 10 starts at the PGA TOUR event at TPC Sugarloaf, with his best finish being a tie for third in 1998.
• With Flesch just shy of a full year on PGA TOUR Champions, he adds to the 51-year-olds owning four of the six tournaments played this year (Jerry Kelly, Steve Stricker twice).
• Flesch becomes the first left-handed player to win since Russ Cochran won the 2013 Principal Charity Classic.
• With his first victory, Flesch moves up 44 places to No. 8 on the Charles Schwab Cup Money List at $330,975.