CARY, N.C. – Good things come to those who wait, so it is said.
For Doug Garwood, the wait was a long one, but holding the 2016 SAS Championship trophy on Sunday was worth it.
As he approached his seat at the post-tournament press conference, he tapped the crystal rhythmically, and said smiling, “I like the sound of that.”
It was with a similar rhythm that his putting stroke enabled him to play below par for three straight days on the resurfaced Bermuda greens on the Highlands course at Prestonwood Country Club as he claimed his first career Champions Tour win in 44 starts, finishing at -16 overall.
He became the Tour’s seventh first-time winner this season, and the fifth first-time Tour event champion at the SAS, joining D.A. Weibring (2003), Mark Wiebe (2007), Tom Pernice, Jr. (2009), and Kenny Perry (2011).
To be precise, it was Garwood’s first-ever victory in any PGA event – Web.com or Champions Tour – having never played in a PGA Tour competition.
He overtook and held off Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer who finished four strokes behind at 12-under par, while Tom Byrum, Jeff Sluman, and Larry Mize all tied for third at 11-under.
As the first-round leader after carding a 7-under par 65, Garwood allowed the field to catch up to him on Saturday, finishing his second round with a 1-under 71.
“Yeah, the putter was obviously hot today,” Garwood said.
“I made a little adjustment. I was aiming a little bit right yesterday and I worked on that.”
Starting in the final group on Sunday with 36-hole leader Langer ahead by two, and tied with former Masters champion Mize at 8-under, Garwood got the start he needed with the right focus.
“I made a conscious effort today to stay in the now,” Garwood said.
“My mind started going towards the finish and this and that. I kept telling myself stay in the now, even left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, just to get me focused on staying there and in the moment; so I did a real good job with that.”
He birdied three of his first four holes and quickly sat two strokes ahead of his final-group playing partners and the rest of the field.
After nine holes, the margin was three, and built up to as many as six strokes through the back nine as Langer tried to match birdies with Garwood.
“Yeah, I just didn’t have my A‑game today,” Langer said.
“I didn’t drive it well enough and I didn’t putt good enough, so 2-under is not a terrible score, but it wasn’t good enough today. Doug just played phenomenal. His putter was hot. He just hit it and went in; hit it, and went in. He started walking after it and it dropped. That’s pretty amazing golf.”
Shooting the low round of the day, an 8-under par 64, it was the Fresno State English Lit major’s day from start to finish.
The few times he got in trouble, he successfully recovered to hit 15-of-18 greens in regulation and rolled an efficient 25 putts to post the win that was accompanied by a $315,000 check.
The win vaulted him into 19th place in the Schwab Cup points standings heading into the Tour’s new playoff swing that begins in two weeks at the PowerShares QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Ca., just down the road from his home.
“I never anticipated winning,” Garwood concluded.
“I’ve never been goal oriented, you know, projecting the future. I like to take it a day at a time, just live in the now. I just enjoy playing golf and so I really – it’s like, I don’t know, it’s just one shot at a time. That’s the golf thing when you’re on the golf course. You can’t try to shoot 65, you can just try to hit the best drive, the best iron. I just try to do that and it builds up into a day, a weekend, a tournament, and then boom, I win.”