Big-hitting American Charlie Beljan avoided another trip to the hospital as he hung on to win the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic by two shots at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Beljan, who had been hospitalized after firing a second round 64, fired a final round 69 on Sunday for a two-shot victory over Americans Robert Garrigus and Matt Every. American Brian Gay was one further back in fourth place. Beljan, the 54-hole leader, finished the week 16-under-par 272 to claim his first career victory on the PGA TOUR and clinch his card, obviously, for 2013 and 2014.
They say magic can happen at Walt Disney World and this week did nothing to disprove that theory. During his round of 64 on Friday, Beljan’s heart was racing and he felt faint. On the back nine, he even resorted to lying down in the fairway before and after shots to catch his breath and slow down his heart rate. This was only Friday. He was rushed the hospital after the round and was held there over night. After getting just over an hour of sleep as tests were being performed, Beljan returned to the Magnolia Course to fire 71 on Saturday and open up a two-shot lead heading into the final round.
On Sunday, the magic continued. In a season where nobody, including major champions, was holding 54-hole leads, Beljan, who had never been in this position before, did for his first TOUR win. On Friday, he was probably happy to be alive. On Sunday afternoon, his crazy 2012 came to a perfect climax.
Beljan entered the week No. 139 on the money list and knew nothing less than a top 10 finish would send him back to Q School. His 22 birdies were good for T1 on the week and it’s no surprise that he also led the field in driving distance. His putting numbers weren’t great and that was attributed to him finishing T7 in GIR but he made some beauties on Sunday from off and on the greens.
Beljan probably wasn’t on many people’s radar this week as he had only made 11 cuts in 21 events this season. His longest cuts-made streak before this week was two events. He was second on TOUR in driving distance and 182nd in strokes gained-putting. Isn’t there some old saying about driving for show and putting for dough? Beljan put it all together this week and has properly rewarded for his effort, just in the nick of time. This eclipses his best finish on TOUR (T3, The Greenbrier Classic) and moves him from No. 139 to No. 63 on the final money list.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
In 46 stroke play tournaments this season, the 54-hole leader has gone on to win only 16 times thanks to Beljan’s victory this week. That’s a pretty big trend to buck for a first-time winner AND first-time 54-hole leader!
Beljan becomes the highest-ranked player to win this event since it moved to the final event on the calendar in 2007. 2010 champion Robert Garrigus was No. 122 when he won.
Americans now have registered 35 victories in 47 events on TOUR this season.
Beljan joins John Huh (Mayakoba), Ted Potter, Jr. (The Greenbrier) and Jonas Blixt (Frys.com) as the only rookies to win on TOUR in 2012.
He’s now the ninth, first-time winner at this event since 1982 and first since Robert Garrigus in 2010.
Rory McIlroy (4), Tiger Woods (3), Zach Johnson (2), Jason Dufner (2), Hunter Mahan (2) and Brandt Snedeker (2) and now Nick Watney (2) are the multiple-winners on TOUR in 2012.
Beljan pockets $846,000 for his first-career TOUR victory.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 47 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” guns make it official at the top as they finish 26-18-3. The 28-year old Beljan makes the list for the first time.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker TWICE (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy FOUR times (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27), Keegan Bradley (26), Sergio Garcia (32), Nick Watney TWICE (31),Ryan Moore (29) Jonas Blixt (28) and Charlie Beljan (28) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) J.J. Henry (37), Tommy Gainey (37) and Ian Poulter (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. Tom Gillis, Tim Herron and Jerry Kelly all had top 10’s this week.
Matt Every: This was his first top 25 in seven starts for the Jacksonville resident. Every claimed his fourth, top five finish of the season and his second T2 (Valero Texas Open). Every played beautifully this week as he only made five bogeys and his ball striking, putting and scrambling were excellent. This is the Every that fantasy gamers were drooling about when he finished T6 and T3 in his first four events of 2012. Every became just as famous to fantasy golfers in the summer as he WD from multiple events from early June to the middle of July. Entering the week, Every had played only five of his last 14 rounds in the 60’s. Every finishes No. 40 on the money list so we will see plenty of him, I think, in 2013.
Robert Garrigus: The 2010 champion dodged the jet-lag that I thought he would have had coming back after two weeks in the Far East to finish T2 this week. He also continued his fantastic play as he finished the week T1 in birdies (22), T3 in GIR, and fifth in putts per GIR. He also only made five bogeys but a double and a triple kept him from winning here for a second time in the last three years. He’s played this event seven times and has hit the top 10 three times (win, T2, T10) and has been cut four times. Garrigus finishes 2012 with two seconds, a T4 and T10 in four of his last six events to remain in the top 30 on the money list. He’ll be on my radar from day one in 2013.
Brian Gay: In his 13th start, Gay finally breaks through and hits the top 10 (solo fourth) here at Disney World. This is also Gay’s best finish since the Valero Texas Open where he finished T4 back in April. Next year, we’ll just look for guys who played THAT event well! Gay has always made his money by rolling the rock and that was no different this week as he led the field in strokes gained-putting. Gay wasn’t on my radar this week because his history here was spotty (no top 10’s) and he had not hit the top 25 in 17 events following his T4 at Valero.
Boo Weekley: GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Who stole the cru-cut and the goatee? Weekley had a curly afro and a full beard this week that was sporting more “salt” than “pepper”. I thought I had turned on the Champions Tour by accident. The good news for Weekley is that he could care less as he finished T5 to jump from No. 121 to No. 108 and claim his card for 2013. Weekley’s ball-striking has never been a problem but his putting has really held him back the last few years. This was a week that he would like to wash, rinse and repeat in 2013 as he was solid off the tee and in the upper half in putting. Entering this week, Weekley had missed the cut in four of his last five events but was T27 in his last event at The McGladrey. This was Weekley’s best finish in 17 events since he was T6 at RBC Heritage in April.
Scott Stallings: Since winning the True South Classic in July, Stallings ended the season on a high note. In the eight events following his victory, he chalked up T7, T5 (this week), T14 and T15 finishes. In his first 18 events of 2012, his two best finishes were T22 and T25. He’s now won in back-to-back seasons and if he can get off to a better start in 2013, look out!
Charlie Wi: He needed a victory this week to jump into the Promised Land of the top 30. That didn’t happen but he did register a T5 for his fourth top 10 of 2012. The 39-year old is still looking for his first victory on TOUR but every year he’s been on TOUR since 2007 he’s made over $1.1 million.
Josh Teater: After riding the “Teater Heater” in July and jumping back on in the Fall Series, I panicked after he MC at Frys.com. That was his first MC in nine events and he had been playing some really solid golf. He showed again this week how solid he’s been since late in the season as he was T19 in GIR and strokes gained-putting. In 30 events this season, Teater had four top 10’s. They all came in those final nine starts. “Teater Heater” t-shirts for sale next year!
Jerry Kelly: It took 26 events in 2012 to make this column but Jerry Kelly finally broke into the top 10 (T9) this week. Kelly played his best golf in July of this year as he went T12 (The Greenbrier Classic), T36 (John Deere Classic) and T13 (True South Classic) in the middle of a six-straight cuts-made streak. Unfortunately for Kelly, his T9 didn’t move him up far enough as he checked in at No. 126 up from No. 137. It’s amazing that he had a CHANCE to make the top 125 with only ONE top 10 finish in 2013.
Joey Snyder III: This is his first cut he’s made on TOUR since 2006. He is on a Major-Medical Exemption for 2013 where he needs to cash over $540,000 in 17 starts to regain his status. I’m not sure you will have to dig that deep to put a team together in 2013 to run into Snyder but he could be of value in weekly leagues if he continues to play well. Stay tuned.
Russell Knox: Another player that needed a top-two finish to keep their card this week, Knox was just one shot out of the lead on the back nine Sunday before bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 saw his dream dry up. He left it late in the season but closed the Fall Series T13, T9, T27 and T9 to give himself a chance. Three of his best four career finishes were in the last four tournaments of the season. I would think he’ll make it through Q-School and we’ll see him again next year.
Mark Anderson: Another young player headed to Q-School hot off the heels of his best career finish on TOUR, T9 this week at Disney. Anderson started the week at No. 170 and his T9 finish moved him up to No. 155. His T9 was his only top 10 in 25 events in 2012. He has no problem making birdies (29th in birdie or better conversions) but he’ll have to shape up his tee ball and focus on holing more putts if we are to see him in 2013.
Tom Gillis: After making five bogeys in the opening round, Gillis only made two more the rest of the way to finish T9 for his third top 10 of 2012. In 23 events, Gillis made 16 cuts but also WD three times. In his final 12 starts, his worst finish when making the cut was T36. Solid play from an “old” guy!
Tim Herron: Speaking of “old” guys, the grizzled veteran Herron needed a huge week and he got one. Herron entered the week at No. 136 and his T9 finish coupled with other results saw him finish at No. 124. Herron made things interesting as his tee shot on No. 17 on Sunday splashed down in the hazard and his putt for five was left short. His double-bogey six made “Lumpy” sweat extra but it was well worth it in the end. Herron left it late but he finished T10, T35, T49 and T9 this week in the final four events of 2012 to claim his card. He wouldn’t have helped much in formats that ended at the PGA Championship but he was a nice value in weekly drafts late in the season.
Then and Now
Heading into this week, here’s how the bubble boys faired in parentheses.
120: James Driscoll (122): His MC made for an uncomfortable weekend but in the end, he’s in for 2013.
121: Boo Weekley (108): See above.
122: Jeff Maggert (123): His T50 finish was just enough to keep the wily vet on TOUR in 2013. He only made four bogeys in the first three rounds but made four on Sunday to keep him scoreboard watching.
123: Kevin Chappell (125): After finishing T3 here last year, Chappell should have had good feelings in dealing with the pressure. His T34 was just good enough as he only made one birdie on Sunday but that ended up just being enough! WHEW!
124: Rod Pampling (127): He had made six counts on the bounce but his MC this week all but sealed his fate on the money list. The veteran Aussie had ONE top 10 finish in 26 events in 2012 and that was in the first week of February at Torrey Pines.
125: Billy Mayfair (128): Last year he finished T6 to finish No. 119 at Disney but what a difference a year makes. This year, Mayfair three-putted from 30 feet on the final hole on Friday to MC and miss out on his 2013 card. Ouch.
126: Trevor Immelman (129): He doesn’t care because his Masters exemption lasts throughout 2013 so he’s playing in 2013 regardless. He opened with 80 on Thursday and that was that.
127: Gary Christian (130): His first time at the Magic Kingdom was not so much fun as he fired 71-77 to MC and not even give himself a chance at the top 125.
128: Alexandre Rocha (131): Unlike some of the guys in this neighborhood, Rocha actually had four rounds to improve his position. He failed to break 70 in any of those four rounds and didn’t break into the top 125.
129: Bill Lunde (133): He opened with 76 and couldn’t make up the difference on Friday to MC and miss out on the automatic promotion.
130: D.J. Trahan (132): He also had four rounds to make the jump and after 67-68 on Friday and Saturday, he looked like he would make that leap. His final round even-par 72 saw him fall just short.
Coming Next Week: My final column of the seasonThe 2012 Takeaway: What We Learned in Fantasy Golf This Season.