Steve Alker Wins Cleveland Open

webcom-cleveland-open-feature-pic

DSC_6397-57Wins with birdie on Tour-record, 11th playoff hole

It’s ironic that last week’s Cleveland Open held at Lakewood Country Club in Westlake co-incided with the 70th anniversary of Word War II’s climactic event, the Normandy Invasion.

Both will go down as The Longest Day. Especially the Cleveland Open. It saw Sunday’s final round morph into an 11-hole, record breaking playoff between eventual champ Steve Alker and Dawie van der Walk, who used a birdie on the 18th in regulation to launch the marathon playoff into sunset.

Even the host Cleveland Sports Commission publicist had some fun with the finals wrap-up: “New Zealand’s Steve Alker rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt on a record 11th playoff hole to defeat Dawie van der Walt and (finally) win the Cleveland Open” says the release.

The day was so long that the Great Lakes Brewing Co. needed reinforcements!

Alker smiled as he hoisted the Cleveland Open Cup as twilight fell. Hiis name was added to a trophy that boasts the moniker of the mighty Arnold Palmer as its first winner (1960).

Alker and van der Walt each had several chances to end things at Lakewood Country Club before the 42-year old Kiwi rolled in the first birdie of the extended session and earned his fourth Web.com Tour title.  The playoff was the longest in Web.com Tour history.

“I had a lot of chances. I felt like I was inside of Dawie several times and had several chances to win,” said Alker, who picked up a check for $108,000.

The pair went through a playoff rotation of 18, 18, 16, 17 18 and halved each of the first 10 holes with pars. Both missed birdie chances and van der Walt nearly chipped in once before Alker ended things at the 418-yard, 18th hole.

DSC_6338-43In all, the Cleveland Open was a huge success for the region. Crowds at Lakewood Country Club were large and enthusiastic, play was excellent and competitive and the event was blessed with post card weather for most of the four-day run.

Please visit TheVillagerNewspaper.com for more coverage & photos.

New Zealand’s Steve Alker rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt on a record 11th playoff hole to defeat Dawie van der Walt and (finally) win the Cleveland Open.

Alker and van der Walt each had several chances to end things at Lakewood Country Club before the 42-year old Kiwi rolled in the first birdie of the extended session and earned his fourth Web.com Tour title.

The playoff was the longest in Web.com Tour history, topping a pair of 9-hole playoffs, and also matched the longest in the history of the PGA TOUR – 11 holes at the 1949 Motor City Open.

South Korean teenager and Monday qualifier Si Woo Kim (65) finished one shot out of the playoff. Jon Curran (69), Jason Gore (70), Jeff Curl (70) and Akron native Ryan Armour (70) tied for fourth, three off the pace.

“I had a lot of chances. I felt like I was inside of Dawie several times and had several chances to win,” said Alker, who picked up a check for $108,000 and jumped from No. 102 to No. 12 on the money list through of 11 of 21 regular season events.

“I got a little bit dizzy out there. At one point, and I can’t recall when, Dawie and I looked at each other and I said is ‘is anybody going to win?’”

The pair went through a playoff rotation of 18, 18, 16, 17 18 and halved each of the first 10 holes with pars. Both missed birdie chances and van der Walt nearly chipped in once before Alker ended things at the 418-yard, 18th hole.

“I finally had a right number,” he said. “I had 172 yards and just hit a perfect 7-iron.” Alker looked like he’d win it in regulation when he chalked up eight birdies in his first 16 holes to reach minus 16 and was up by three over eventual third-place finisher Si Woo Kim (65), who closed regulation play at 13-under par. Two stumbles on the final two holes dropped him to 14-under 270 and then he waited as van der Walt birdied the 17th and 18th holes – the last a 20-foot snake that was perfect from the time it left his putter – to force only the second playoff on Tour this year.

“I played great on the front nine but then struggled a bit and missed a few fairways coming in,” said Alker. “My putting kept me in there.” Van der Walt’s putting got him into the playoff as he cashed in several bombs on his inward nine and closed with six birdies over 9 holes to catch Alker.

DSC_6066-23“I didn’t think I had a chance after the bogey on 16 (in regulation),” said van der Walt, who picked up a check for $64,800 and moved from No.114 to No. 22 on the money list. “I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I just played 11 holes and couldn’t make another birdie.”

The win was the culmination of an outstanding week for Alker, who now calls Fountain Hills, AZ, home. On Monday he finished second in the 36-hole U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier in the San Francisco area and then grabbed a red-eye east to Ohio. “I got about an hour’s sleep” said Alker of his flights.

Determined to see a course he’d never seen, Alker managed to get 9 holes in Tuesday morning after driving directly to the golf course. He added the other 9 early Wednesday, teeing it up before the first tee time at 7:20 a.m.

“It’s very satisfying,” said Alker of the win. “I won last year and then to come out and win again this year is really pleasing since I haven’t been in the habit of doing that.”

Alker now heads to North Carolina for this week’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He played in the Open last year for the first time, finishing T45.

The final round 11-hole playoff is the longest in Web.com Tour history and matches the longest on the PGA Tour.

 

Notes:

STEVEN ALKER– Collects a first-place check for $108,000

– Moves from No. 102 to No. 12 on the money list

– Earns his fourth career title

– Victory comes in his 199th career Web.com Tour start

– Becomes the 22nd player in Tour history to have four career wins

– Adds the 2014 Cleveland Open title to previous wins:

2002 Louisiana Open

2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship

2013 Utah Championship

2014 Cleveland Open

– Win comes at the age of 42 years, 10 months, 11 days

– Joins Alex Cejka and Kris Blanks as winners in their 40s on Tour this year

– Joins Alex Cejka (Germany), Adam Hadwin (Canada) and Carlos Ortiz (Mexico) as foreign-born winners on Tour this year

– Brings his native country’s all-time win total on the Web.com Tour to eight:

New Zealand (8) Steven Alker (4)

* Ohio State grad Ryan Armour started the final round just one shot off the lead but managed only a 1-under 70 and wound up T4.

“I didn’t hit it very well today,” said Armour. “Posting 1-under isn’t the worst score in the world but it was frustrating. I didn’t give myself enough looks for birdies to try and chase Alker down. If you would have told me I’d finish fourth or fifth at the beginning of the week I probably would just head home. I’m happy but once you get in contention you want to win.”

* Three of 12 Monday qualifiers made the cut this week:

Si Woo Kim 66-69-71-65—271 (-13) 3rd

Steve LeBrun 72-69-70-67—278 (-6) T31

Blake Sattler 70-71-69-70—280 (-4) T41

 

Third Round (Saturday) Rewind

If anyone doubted that golf is a crazy game, they need look no farther than Saturday’s rollercoaster ending to the third round of the Cleveland Open. Second-round co-leaders Mathew Goggin and Jeff Curl took turns taking the third-round lead and then giving it away when they both inexplicably four-putted one of the final two holes.

When the dust settled on a bizarre ending at the Lakewood Country Club, South Korea’s Whee Kim (68) and Goggin (69) were tied for first place with 11-under 202 totals.

Local favorite Ryan Armour of nearby Akron jumped into a share of third with a 5-under 66 that put him 10 under and into Sunday’s final threesome. Jason Gore (66) and Curl are also
one off the pace with 18 holes to go.

Dawie van der Walt’s 6-under 65 matched the best score of the day and moved the South African into a tie for sixth, two back, along with Brasil Champions winner Jon Curran (67).

Goggin, who posted a course-record 62 on Friday, relied on a stellar short game to slowly inch away from the field. A birdie putt at the par-3, 16th
put him 4-under for the day and two ahead Kim and playing partner Curl.

“I drove the ball alright so I was in a pretty comfortable spot all day. I just wasn’t able to hit the ball close,” said the 39-year old Australian. “I didn’t play terribly but when you come off a 62 and you didn’t miss a shot and then hit half a dozen bad shots, you think you’re the worst golfer in the world even you’re playing like everyone else.”

Goggin was in control at 13-under and faced a 60-foot birdie putt at the par-4, 17th. His first putt stopped only two feet from the cup. Then it happened. Suddenly.

“I pulled the next one,” he said. “That’s one of those putts that’s going six feet by if you don’t make it.” It was closer to seven feet when it stopped on the other side of the hole and then Goggin missed again.

“I thought I hit a perfect putt,” he admitted. “It was right to left and I hit it right-center. The putt went right to left.”The misread cost him another shot and the resulting double bogey dropped him out of sole possession of the lead.

“The important thing is to step up on the next hole and not compound the error,” said Goggin, who piped a drive right down the middle of the ever-narrowing 18th fairway. “I hit a really good tee shot and then just hit a horrible wedge shot.”

Goggin’s second wound up in a left, greenside bunker and his blast from the sand settled within three feet for par. While Goggin waited to tap in for par he witnessed Curl do the same thing he’d done minutes earlier – four putt.

After Goggin’s double at 17, Curl suddenly found himself in the lead at 12-under par and facing an across the green, 50-foot birdie putt.

“I made a bad putt to begin with. That green is so fast,” said Curl. “You cannot put the ball where I did. I didn’t think enough about where to leave the putt on my second one.”

Curl’s initial putt slid to the right and wound up some eight feet above the hole.

“That eight was just straight glass. Downwind, downhill,” said Curl. “I thought I hit it perfect. It was the exact same putt I had on 17 (for birdie). The one on 17 broke and this
one didn’t.”

Curl pushed it his second nearly five feet past and then missed the next one coming back.

“It’s called golf,” he said. “We’ve all done it. It’s not the fist time it’s happened and I promise it won’t be the last time.”

His double bogey not only cost him the lead but it dropped him out of Sunday’s final pairing.

“It sounds crazy but it’s really not going to affect me, what happened there on 18,” said Curl. “Heck, I’m one shot back with 18 holes to play. I like my chances.”

The mistakes have given new hope to many. There are 17 players now within four shots of the lead.

 

THIRD-ROUND NOTES:

* Due to anticipated Sunday afternoon storms, Round Four tee times have been moved up. Play will be in threesomes off the 1st
and 10th tees in threesomes. Times will run from 8:00-9:50 a.m. with an expected finish
around 3:00 p.m.

* Ohio State grad Ryan Armour moved into a tie for third with a 5-under 66. Armour, who grew up in Akron, about 45 miles southeast of Westlake, will be in the final pairing on Sunday
and in search of his first career win.

“I just want to play good. It’s been so long since I’ve won a meaningful event,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends, family and even guys I met in the pro-am have come out with
their kids. Being sort of local, it would mean a lot.”

* Mackenzie Hughes, who attended Kent State University (also about 45 miles southeast) is playing in front of a good group of local supporters. Hughes, who finished No. 1 on the
2013 PGA TOUR Canada Order of Merit, has posted scores of 73-67-70 and is at 3-under par for the tournament (T43).

* Korea’s Whee Kim continues to excel on the greens this week. Kim leads the field in putting with just 75 through 54 holes. He has had 24, 22 and 29 putts during his first three
rounds.

* Low rounds of the day:
65 – Steven Alker, Dawie
van der Walt
66 – Ryan Armour, Jason
Gore, Adam Hadwin, Todd Hamilton, Scott Harrington, Alex Rocha, Byron Smith,       Chase Wright

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