Date: November 08, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Pamps classic winds back clock

Rod Pampling has wound back the clock, winning the Shriners Open in spectacular style in Las Vegas.

The Queenslander, 47, won for the first time in more than a decade on the US PGA Tour, his third career victory coming 3886 days after he won the Bay Hill Invitational in 2006.

And it came in the finest style with a birdie bomb – only his sixth putt in the closing five holes – on the 18th to seal a two-shot victory.

“What we’ve done over the last few years, to get a win under the belt is just phenomenal and amazing,” said Pampling, who fought through Web.Com Tour finals to regain his card.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s just a self-belief that I know it’s still there, the body feels healthy and I know I have the game for `out here’.

“It was just (a matter of) being patient, grinding out on the Web.Com Tour – it’s extremely hard out there, but it certainly gives you the confidence you can compete against the younger guys and come out here.

“To win this magnificent event it’s fantastic.”

Pampling, who’d led for much of the first two rounds after a spectacular opening course-record 60, had fallen behind former US Open champion Lucas Glover late in round three.

The 2008 Australian Masters champion charged back to the top of the leaderboard early in the final round when he chipped in from 25m for birdie on the par-three eighth hole.

A birdie on the ninth kicked him clear, but bogeys on the 10th and 12th allowed Glover to sneak back past and fellow last-group contender Brooks Koepka to draw level.

But just when momentum seemed lost, Pampling found the steel that once took him as high as No.22 in the world rankings.

He made a great curling mid-range putt for birdie on the 13th, and then drilled another from 6m on the par-three 14th to regain a share of top spot.

After brushing narrowly, but quickly, past the hole for albatross on the par-four 15th, he made another clutch curling birdie putt to retain his mantle.

And then came the critical moment. After finding trouble right of the 16th, a par-five which had been the course’s easiest all week, Pampling made a spectacular up and down for par from 100m to keep a share of the lead as Koepka birdie to close within one.

A two-putt par on the 17th was enough to go one clear when Glover couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker.

And the icing was put on a very sweet cake on the last hole when Pampling hit an absolutely perfect putt from 10m dead centre, walking the last metre of the tournament sealer home before a jubilant fist pump.

Pampling said he’d drawn inspiration from the rush of Australian victories on the PGA Tour this season – that number now eight in calendar 2016 from five different players, including his good mate Greg Chalmers.

“That was a fantastic feat from Greg and `Badds’ (Aaron Baddeley) was there, too,” Pampling said of Aussie winners who’d been quiet for several American seasons.

“But it’s kind of like a big wheel and it seems the Australians are kicking in again. We were dormant for a little while there, but Jason and Scotty have kicked it on, so I was glad to just grab one of those spokes and be a part of that big wheel.”

The win ensures Pampling a start in next year’s Masters and also that he’ll retain playing rights until his 50th birthday in 2019 when he’ll become eligible for the Champions Tour.

The victory capped off a great tournament again for Australian golfers with Geoff Ogilvy also showing tremendous form with rounds of 67-67-66-68 to finish T4 at -16, four shots adrift of Pampling.

Cam Smith carded three consecutive rounds of 68 after his opening 66 to finish T10 at -14, while Matt Jones also shot four rounds in the 60s to finish at -13 and T15.

John Senden finished T31 at 10 under par.