Mathew Goggin sat in a second-floor room at Crestview Country Club on Sunday afternoon with the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open trophy at his feet. Across the room, a television showed Rory McIlroy running away with the U.S. Open.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” said Goggin, a 37-year-old Australian who started charting his professional path more than a decade ago. “Most tournaments are just whoever makes the least amount of mistakes, not whoever hits the best shots.”
Goggin wasn’t envious of McIlroy’s situation, just realistic. Over four hours of golf in hot, windy conditions, he had just weathered challenges from a talented group of contenders and survived his own occasional miscues on Crestview’s North course. He also deflated any drama before it could escalate on the final hole, sinking a 6-foot birdie putt to hold off Kyle Thompson by one stroke for his fourth career Nationwide Tour title.
Goggin, already the Nationwide’s season money leader before the tournament started, pocketed $108,000 and became the tour’s first two-time winner this year. His 2-under-par 69 in the final round gave him a 72-hole total of 18-under 266.
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Entering the day with a one-shot lead over Thompson and Troy Kelly, Goggin never surrendered the lead, but wasn’t able to keep a firm grip on it throughout the round. Back-to-back bogeys on a stretch of Crestview’s front nine, which he had navigated flawlessly the first three rounds, left him tied with Thompson heading to the back nine.
“Most of my bogeys were from good shots, so you sort of feel pretty comfortable,” said Goggin, who made four in the final round after just two in the first 54 holes. “It wasn’t like I was spraying it all over the place. I was keeping the ball in play.”
Thompson, bidding to become the first golfer to win consecutive Nationwide tournaments since 2005, was forced to play catch-up after dropping a stroke to Goggin on three consecutive holes. Goggin regained the lead with a birdie from 3 feet at the par-4 10th. He then birdied the par-4 11th, while Thompson failed to convert a 6-foot birdie attempt.
At the par-3 12th, Goggin stayed at 18 under with a par, while Thompson dropped to 15 under when he failed to get up and down for par from the left side of the green.
“As I’m hitting my (birdie) putt on (No.) 11, a huge gust of wind just knocked me off balance,” Thompson said. “I’ve made every 6- and 8-footer this week. That was just a bad break.
“Then at (No.) 12, I just kind of blasted a chip and then misread the putt. Nobody’s going to play mistake-free golf.”
Goggin proved that theory at No. 13, mis-hitting a chip shot that resulted in a bogey. After sinking a 12-footer at No. 15 to get back to 18 under, he three-putted from 35 feet for a bogey at the par-4 16th.Within seconds, Scott Brown rolled in a birdie putt at the par-3 17th and Thompson converted a 5-foot birdie at No. 16 to join Kelly at 16 under, one behind Goggin.
“It was sort of how the day was going to go no matter what I tried to do,” Goggin said.
But Goggin, who won in February in Panama while playing in the final threesome, stayed out of reach the final two holes. When Kelly and Brown parred the 18th to finish at 16 under, the tournament became a two-man race.
Goggin parred the 17th, then got up and down from 70 feet for birdie at the par-5 18th. His final putt made Thompson’s short birdie a moot point.
Thompson climbed from sixth to second on the Nationwide money list, virtually sealing his advancement to the PGA Tour next year with more than half of the 26 events to play.
“I’ve got that behind me now, which is great,” said Thompson, who has $188,178 in season earnings. “Now I can just kind of freewheel it here the rest of the year and see how good I can do.”
For Goggin, a father of two who lives in Charlotte, N.C., the Father’s Day victory continued to validate what he believes was a bit of an anomaly last season. Goggin, who lost his tour card in 2010 after playing in the final Sunday pairing in the British Open 23 months ago, won his second tournament in 112 days after waiting more than 11 years between the second and third of his career.
“The first one (in Panama), the guys fell apart,” Goggin said. “I was just sort of the last man standing. I didn’t feel like I did anything special.
“Today, it was a real fight. I really felt like I had to win this instead of letting the other guys lose. It was a nice way to win, that’s for sure.”
NOTES — Former Kansas State golfer Aaron Watkins (68) finished sixth at 13 under, his best in four Wichita Opens and the second best in 71 Nationwide events. ... Derby’s Woody Austin (71) finished 6 under and fell 10 spots Sunday into a tie for 35th. ... Tour rookie Billy Hurley III fired the low round of the day, a 66 that vaulted him into fifth place. ... Tournament director Roy Turner announced next year’s Wichita Open will be played June 21-24, 2012. ... The Nationwide Tour heads to Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, this week for the Mexico Open.