Sunday's golf: Cameron Champ fends off heat to win 3M Open by 2 strokes
Blaine, Minn. — Cameron Champ was struggling mightily through the first half of this year, a frustrating series of performances that pointed him back to his state of mind more than any mechanical flaw.
Like many newlyweds, the 26-year-old was distracted by the delicate balance of passionately pursuing his career while still trying to carve out a healthy personal life at home. He found himself becoming much too upset by a bad round.
There sure wasn't much for Champ to be mad about at the 3M Open.
Champ fended off dehydration and crisply putted his way to a 5-under 66 on Sunday, winning by two strokes for his third career victory.
“I just took a complete 180 in how I’m waking up every morning and how I’m reacting to certain things and adjusting to certain things,” said Champ, who had five birdies in a bogey-free round to finish at 15-under 269 at TPC Twin Cities.
Louis Oosthuizen, Jhonattan Vegas and Charl Schwartzel tied for second. Keith Mitchell was fifth at 12 under, and behind him were five players tied for sixth.
Champ joined Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau as the only under-28 players to win in each of the last three seasons on tour. He jumped from 142nd to 49th in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 125 qualifying for the playoff opener.
This month has brought quite the turnaround for the Texas A&M product, after nine missed cuts and one withdrawal over his first 16 starts of 2021. The best finish in that stretch was a tie for 17th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Champ hit the reset button after missing the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit three weeks ago, though, and emerged with a tie for 11th at the John Deere Classic in Illinois.
“After Detroit, I just took a step back and said, ‘You know what? This is enough. I can’t keep going on this way. I’m not enjoying the game,’” Champ said.
His wife, Jessica, was surely happy to hear that.
“It’s more so realizing what I want to do in the game of golf and then who I want to be at home. It’s a balance you have to find, and if you don’t, it can really haunt you and it can cause a lot of issues," Champ said. “So I just feel like the last two months I’ve been in a lot better head space.”
During another 90-degree day, Champ was far from his physical best. He felt some dizziness along the back nine, putting his hands on his knees at one point as he hung his head to try to regain some composure. He had plenty of it on the last hole, after his safe strategy with the tee shot to stay away from the lake landed way left in a trampled, sandy area directly behind a clump of trees.
Champ managed to chip out onto the primary rough, then scoot up the fairway. His approach was a beauty that landed perfectly and rolled back toward the pin. He sank the easy par putt and had enough energy to pump his arms in celebration of his first top-10 finish since last October.
“The Gatorade definitely helped, I think, keep me going,” said Champ, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2019, the year he turned pro, and the Safeway Open in 2020.
He had the best putting performance of the 3M Open field, with an average of 8.48 strokes gained.
Oosthuizen shot 66, too, in a much stronger finish than the previous weekend at the British Open, where his 54-hole lead turned into a tie for third after a fourth-round 71.
Playing six pairs ahead of Champ, Oosthuizen birdied three of the last four holes to give himself an outside chance. His approach to the 18th green almost yielded an eagle on the PGA Tour’s hardest par-5 hole, but the ball lipped out. Oosthuizen made a 2 1/2 foot putt for birdie instead and his fourth runner-up finish in seven starts. Schwartzel, his fellow South African, posted a 68 to match Vegas in the final round.
“We had a good time here this week, and I’m just trying to see if I can go one better than all these seconds and thirds,” Oosthuizen said.
Cameron Tringale, a one-stroke leader after the third round, took a triple bogey on the par-3 13th hole right after consecutive birdies had brought him back into contention. He shot 74 and finished six strokes behind Champ, leaving PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson as the only 54-hole leader or co-leader to win in the last 13 tour events.
Matthew Wolff (2019) and Michael Thompson (2020), the first two winners of the 3M Open, each finished in a tie for 39th place at 5-under.
Newly minted Olympian Patrick Reed tied for 34th at 6 under, before heading home to Texas to get ready for Tokyo. He found out Saturday he'd been added to the U.S. team after DeChambeau tested positive for COVID-19.
“Once I start an event," Reed said, "I’m definitely going to finish the event.”
PGA Senior Tour
Sunningdale, England — Stephen Dodd birdied the final hole to win the Senior British Open by one stroke on Sunday, holding off challenges from Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke to secure his first major title.
The 55-year-old Welshman closed with a 2-under 68 at Sunningdale for a four-day total of 13-under 267. He hit his approach from the right rough to about 10 feet on the par-4 18th and holed the putt to win the trophy and a spot in next year's British Open at St. Andrews.
“This could be the only chance I get to win, so tried my best to hole it,” Dodd said. “Thankfully for me it went in, so it was a nice way to finish for me.”
Jimenez, the 2018 winner, shot 65 to finish at 12 under, while Clarke (67) was another shot behind.
Dodd equaled the low round in the history of the tournament on Saturday with an 8-under 62 that gave him a two-shot lead heading into the final round of the last senior major championship of the year.
He had only played one tournament in the past 18 months.
“Expectation-wise, I didn’t really have any expectations, because as I said, I played so little competitive golf that I just wanted to play well and just do myself a bit of justice,” Dodd said, “and I think I’ve done a bit more than that, luckily.”
Defending champion Bernhard Langer (68) was fourth, another two shots back. The 63-year-old Langer won in 2019 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for his fourth victory in the event. Last year's tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Two-time British Open champion Ernie Els (72) tied for eighth.
A three-time European Tour winner, Dodd made his senior debut at the Senior British Open in 2016, when he had his previously best finish at the event — a share of 14th place.
He didn't realize until after he won that he'd earned the exemption to play at St. Andrews.
“That will be special,” he said. “I'll have to start trying to hit it a bit harder and further.”
Evian-Les-Bains, France — Australian golfer Minjee Lee won a sudden death playoff against overnight leader Jeongeun Lee6 to clinch the Evian Championship on Sunday for her first major title.
Lee6 had to take a drop shot when her second shot on the first extra playoff hole flew into a pond, while Lee’s superb second attempt landed near the flag.
Lee6 ended with a bogey to give the 25-year-old Lee three putts for victory and a sixth LPGA title.
She missed the first but made the second and was doused in Champagne by 2015 Evian champion Lydia Ko.
“I’m speechless ... been waiting for this for so long. It just feels unreal to have won. In the playoff, and all throughout today, I played really well to get myself in that position," she said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, it’s just really nice to have a major title under my belt."
Her younger brother Min Woo Lee has two wins on the men’s European Tour. He won the Scottish Open two weeks ago — also in a playoff and on the first extra hole.
“When we were really little, we used to go down to the driving range with Mom,” she said. “We would just practice.”
Lee is the first Australian to win at Evian since seven-time major winner Karrie Webb in 2006, before it was a major.
“Actually she did message me straightaway,” Lee said of the 41-time LPGA Tour winner. “She messages me quite a bit ... it’s just really nice of her.”
Lee and Lee6 had finished the fourth round at 18 under overall, but in vastly different circumstances.
Lee trailed Lee6 by seven shots overnight but drew level with a superb 7-under 64 in the final round which included four birdies on the last five holes. After drifting away, Lee6 (71) hit back with three straight birdies to force a playoff.
Teenage American Yealimi Noh (67) finished third on 17 under when she missed a birdie chance on the 18th.
“A lot of positives, it’s been my best major finish,” the 19-year-old Noh said.
Lee and Lee6 both teed off strongly in the 18th-hole playoff.
Lee went for a 5-iron on her second shot, but caddie Jason Gilroyed advised her to switch to a 6-iron and was proved right.
“I think the yardage was for 5-iron, but with adrenaline and everything Gilly was like, ‘Let’s go 6-iron,’” she said. “It was six feet from the hole. Yeah, it worked out.”
That increased the pressure on Lee6, whose tense shot flew into the water. Her head dropped as she knew her chances of a second major had just gone. She won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2019.
The day’s best round went to Ireland’s Leona Maguire. Her 10-under 61 tied the lowest round ever by a female or male in a major — two days after Lee6 did the same in the second round. They share the record with South Korea's Hyo Joo Kim, who also did it at Evian in 2014.
Japan’s Ayaka Furue finished fourth, ahead of 18-year-old Thai Atthaya Thitikul.
Maguire tied for sixth with Ko, England’s Georgia Hall and South Korea’s In Gee Chun.
Top-ranked Nelly Korda (67) tied 19th and defending champion Jin Young Ko was 60th.
Lee6's big lead evaporated after eight holes as Noh moved level at 15 under. By hole No. 14 Noh led by one stroke from Lee6 and Lee, who moved level with her with a birdie on 15 and one ahead after another on 16.
Lee held a tricky par on No. 17 and Noh put her hand on her face in frustration after missing a birdie on the 16th. Lee6 sank a birdie on that hole to pull level with Noh.
Lee6 and Noh then made birdies on No. 17 to stay one shot back from Lee and give themselves a chance.
Lee snacked on some fruit while she waited for them to finish the 18th, then realized there could be a playoff and started some putting practice.
Lee6 had a very long eagle to win the tournament and fell a distance short, but held her nerve to make birdie and set up a playoff.
Minutes later, it was all over.
Newport, Wales — Nacho Elvira squandered a six-shot overnight lead in the Wales Open and bogeyed the 18th hole before rallying to beat Justin Harding in a playoff to win his first European Tour title on Sunday.
Elvira dedicated his victory to Spanish golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was murdered in 2018.
Harding three-putted the first extra hole, the par-five 18th, to gift victory to Elvira, who had earlier made the same mistake when a closing par would have secured the title at Celtic Manor.
“I thought I had it all pretty much under control and to be honest I got pretty nervous on the last couple of putts on the regular 18(th),” Elvira told Sky Sports. “I was more calm in the playoff than I was on 18.”
Elvira finished the final round on a par 71 for a four-day total of 16-under 268.
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen (66) and South Africa's Harding (65) had both played their first 15 holes of the final round in 6-under par to share the lead on 16 under, with Elvira falling a shot behind after covering his first 14 holes in 1 over.
The 34-year-old Spaniard then drove the green on the short par-four 15th to set up a straightforward birdie and holed from 20 feet for another on the 17th to retake the lead, only to three-putt the last from 18 feet.
“To be honest I was thinking especially during the last nine or 10 holes about Celia Barquin, she passed away a few years ago," Elvira said. "I was good friends with her family and this is for her.”
Barquin, who won the European Ladies’ Amateur Championship in 2018, was a student at Iowa State University when she was found dead on a course in the state in September that year. Collin Richards pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in August 2019.
Korhonen finished a shot outside the playoff following a costly bogey on the 17th, with England’s Callum Shinkwin another stroke back in fourth.