(Reuters) – Californian Cameron Champ survived a late scare before sinking a four-foot birdie putt at the final hole for an emotional win at the Safeway Open in northern California on Sunday.
Champ, playing for his gravely ill grandfather who is stricken with advanced stomach cancer, almost blew it on the home stretch, before regrouping on the final hole.
The 24-year-old said he felt a strange sense of calm as he stood over the putt for victory.
“That putt, it was the first time I didn’t really feel that nervous,” a tearful Champ said after hugging his father and briefly speaking to his grandfather by phone on the 18th green.
“I don’t know if it’s meant to be or whatnot, but to win here, no matter whether I win one more tournament, 10 more tournaments, this will be the greatest moment of my golfing career for sure.
“It means everything. Going through this experience has opened my mind up to a lot of things.”
Champ, until now best known as the longest driver on the PGA Tour, carded a closing three-under-par 69 at Silverado Resort in California wine country.
He finished at 17-under 271 for his second PGA Tour victory in 34 starts, one shot ahead of Canadian Adam Hadwin.
Hadwin almost spoiled the script, erasing a three-shot deficit in the final two holes.
He rolled in a 15-foot birdie at the 17th and then a four-footer for another birdie at the par-five 18th for a 67.
Champ, who had bogeyed the par-four 17th after misjudging his short approach shot, suddenly found himself standing in the 18th fairway tied for the lead after a 370-yard drive.
But he missed the green with his eight-iron second shot and was in serious danger of falling into a playoff until a deft chip set the stage for the winning putt, which he stroked in dead center.
Champ, who hails from nearby Sacramento, started the round with a three-shot lead over a trio including Hadwin.
A six-foot birdie at the first hole settled Champ’s nerves, at least until the last couple of holes.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)