By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – It was another close finish at the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
In the end, an 18-under-par finish was what left long-locked Michigan native Joey Garber as the last man standing to raise the crystal and receive the $117,000 winner’s check.
Following last year’s playoff between eventual winner Conrad Shindler and Raleigh native Chesson Hadley, the 2018 edition of the Rex featured a highly-contended leaderboard on Sunday.
Garber paced the fairways and greens among a group of 12-plus players who stayed within two shots of the lead during the final round’s back nine.
Heading to the 18th tee, and claiming to not have looked at the leaderboard all day, Garber asked his caddie what he needed to do on the final hole.
“He knew where we stood, and said all we needed was a par,” the University of Georgia alum said.
“I tried to make it to the middle of the green. It came a little left and ended up in the perfect spot.”
A two-putt finish was all he needed to post his first career win and vaulted him into sixth spot on the Web.com Tour’s Money List, up from his previous spot at No. 50.
The margin for error was razor-thin, particularly through the final three holes of play – the par-3 16th, and the par-4 17th and 18th.
Scott Langley and Hank Lebioda, who each tied for second at 17-under par made their moves to get closer to Garber who stood at 18-under following a birdie on 16.
Hitting from the 18th fairway, a birdie for Langley could have forced a playoff, but he pulled his shot into the right rough.
An exceptional chip attempt from 30-plus feet looked promising, but didn’t fall.
Lebioda made his birdie putt from three feet and pulled to within one as he and Langley could only hope that Garber would falter.
“I just tried to hit fairways and hit greens and make it easy on myself.
“I left enough for a putt on 18 and it worked out.”
Notables: Duke alum Wes Roach and N.C. State alum Albin Choi both finished T6 at 15-under overall, while Cary’s Ben Kohles finished T10 at 14-under…Finishing each round making 26-25-27-25 putts respectively, Garber used a Scotty Cameron putter he found in Kohles’ garage, his host for the week. When asked if he’d give it back, Garber said it was staying in his bag.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport