(BOISE, ID – July 20, 2014) – Steve Wheatcroft rolled in 10-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat Steven Alker and win the 25th Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco. The pair battled back and forth during a pressure-packed Sunday at Hillcrest Country Club and wound up tied at 24-under par after regulation play.
Wheatcroft watched as Alker’s 30-foot birdie try stopped a couple feet short of the cup and then calmly stepped up and canned the putt to change his season, and perhaps his career, around.
“This is unbelievable. I’m just speechless,” said the 36-year old from Jacksonville, Fla., who won for the second time in his career. “I’ve been playing so badly this year that I thought I might be done. I lost all belief.”
Wheatcroft, with his first child due next month, may have hit bottom earlier this summer and thought about quitting but rediscovered his game at last week’s Utah Championship where he finished T21 after opening with rounds of 65-66.
“There’s something about this place,” said Wheatcroft, runner-up to Luke Guthrie here in 2012. “It started to sink in a few weeks ago that if I didn’t start playing better I’d have to find something else to do. I knew I had to keep fighting and I had some good tournaments ahead of me. I really thought I was going to win this week.”
Wheatcroft started the final day two shots back of Alker, who broke the tournament’s 54-hole record with a 20-under 195 total.
The Indiana grad closed the gap quickly on his playing partner with a pair of birdies followed by a 50- to 60-foot eagle putt on the third hole to wrest control of the lead away from the transplanted New Zealander .
Alker, steady and methodical, regained a share of the lead with birdies at Nos. 9 and 10 and went two up when Wheatcroft chalked up back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13.
“Had the lead and had a good-looking lead and I got ahead a little bit. Walking to 14 I way trying not to hang my head,” said Wheatcroft. “It was a good lesson going forward. I had to get back in the mindset to make birdies because out here nobody is going backwards.”
Rookie Justin Thomas put a charge on late and posted a 65 to reach 22-under, good for solo third place.
Indiana rookie Chase Wright (66), No. 2 money winner Andrew Putnam (66) and second-round co-leader Zack Sucher (70) all made their presence known but wound up tied for fourth, five off the pace.
That left the stage to the final duo of Wheatcroft and Alker as they punched and counter-punched.
Wheatcroft birdied 14 and 15 and regained the lead when Alker three-putted No. 15 for a bogey. Alker, winner of the Cleveland Open earlier this year, responded with a birdie at the par-5, 16th to tie for the lead again at 23-under.
The pair then traded birdie putts on the par-3, 17th – with Wheatcroft rolling his in from 12 feet and Alker responding with one of his own from 10 feet.
“He followed me right in there,” said Wheatcroft. “That’s the way it should be. It’s fun to be in a good battle like that.”
After missing lengthy birdie putts on the final hole the pair headed back to the 18th tee for the fifth playoff in tournament history and the second in as many years.
“It was a right edge putt and I wasn’t sure if I hit it hard enough,” said Wheatcroft of the winner. “I had a similar putt in regulation so that helped. I knew what it was going to do at the end.
The victory for Wheatcroft, his first since capturing the 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open by a Tour-record 12 strokes, was worth $144,000 and vaulted him from No. 89 to No. 11 on the money list and guaranteed him to return trip to the PGA TOUR in 2015.
“I’ve had an awful year and now I’ve had two good weeks and now it’s a good year,” said Wheatcroft. “With a baby on the way you worry about where the money is going to come from. That check is going to pay for a lot of diapers.”
Officials of the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco announced on Sunday a 2014 charitable contribution of $1.45 Million, which pushes the tournament’s 25-year total over $17 Million. The Albertsons Boise Open has the distinction of being the Web.com Tour’s all-time leader in raising money for charity.
FINAL ROUND NOTES:
• Wheatcroft earned his second career win. His first win came at the 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open in suburban Washington D.C.
• Wheatcroft earns his second win in his 129th Web.com Tour start.
• Wheatcroft picks up a check for $144,000 to push his season total to $179,365. He jumps from No. 89 to No. 11 on the money list after 16 of 21 regular season events.
• This was Wheatcroft’s seventh start in Boise and he has advanced to the weekend all seven times. Wheatcroft finished T17 last year, T2 in 2012 and has two other top-25 finishes at Hillcrest CC.
• Wheatcroft and Steven Alker bettered the tournament’s 72-hole record of 23-under par, which was set by last year’s playoff participants Spencer Levin and champion Kevin Tway.
• Sunday’s playoff was the fifth in tournament history (1991, 1994, 2005, 2013, 2014).
By Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR Staff Writer
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