MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Fabian Gomez held his native flag close while celebrating his first career PGA Tour title at the St. Jude Classic. A win to remember is even more special now he’s the fifth champion from Argentina, joining mentor Jose Coceres, Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero and Roberto De Vicenzo.
“That list for me is an honor, and we share many, many weeks with Andres, Angel,” Gomez said Sunday through a translator. “When they play on the tour the same week with me, we share some barbecue. We had one last night, and I know that they are going to be happy for this situation right now.”
Gomez, 36, started Sunday tied with Owen atop the leaderboard at 9 under with 23 players within four strokes. Gomez finished off a four-stroke win that was the largest at this event since 2009 with a 13-under 267 total after shooting 4-under 66 in the final round. He carded a five birdie-one bogey round for his first PGA title in his 70th start in a season already featuring three top 25s.
Taking home the winner’s check of $1.08 million is a nice turnaround for Gomez who had to earn back his tour card through the Web.com Tour last year. When he rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on No. 18 for the final margin, Gomez celebrated by holding up his putter and pumping his right fist.
“Even if I won many tournaments, winning here on the PGA Tour is something amazing, and I’m going to enjoy the moment with my family,” Gomez said with the crystal trophy close at hand.
Owen finished with a 70 for the round, and he said he just didn’t play well enough to beat Gomez.
“I think he hit every fairway,” Owen said. “You got to hit the fairways out here. The flags are tucked. … He just played solid. His distance control was good, and he was under control and couple of shots I couldn’t match him.”
Phil Mickelson remains winless since the 2013 as he tied for third (65-272). He finished with a flourish, rolling in a 25-footer for birdie that nearly lipped out on No. 18. Mickelson finished tied with Seung-Yul Noh (65), Michael Thompson (66), Matt Jones (68) and Brooks Kopeka (70).
Boo Weekley (65), Billy Horschel (65), Russell Knox (66) and Chad Campbell (68) all tied for seventh at 273.
Mickelson used this event at TPC Southwind, sponsored by FedEx, to tune up his game for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington. He carded eight birdies Sunday with three bogeys and says he got the confidence boost he wanted.
“I’m feeling a lot better about heading into the U.S. Open after this week than I did after last,” Mickelson said.
This event belonged to Gomez who honed his game with tips from his mentor along with playing many rounds with Cabrera. He already had won twice on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in Buenos Aires in 2013 and 2014. The last time he had a piece of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, he tied Jordan Spieth for second at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open.
Starting with the lead this time, Gomez fell a stroke back of Owen with his lone bogey of the day on No. 5 and was two strokes behind before Gomez birdied the par 3 No. 8. He tied Owen at 10 under when the Englishman bogeyed No. 9.
Gomez took the lead for good at 11 under when he stuck a shot within 8 feet on the par-3 11th with the island green. He clinched his victory on the par-5 16th with his fourth birdie despite hitting into the greenside bunker. Gomez blasted out to within 2 feet for the tap-in birdie and a three-stroke lead.
“After that, I knew that the chance to win was close,” Gomez said.
Jones was only two strokes behind Gomez after a birdie on No. 13, but the Australian couldn’t roll in a birdie putt from 10 feet on the par-3 14th and then had a bogey on No. 15 after hitting into the rough twice.
That left Owen with the only chance to run down Gomez.
The veteran playing his 214th PGA event just missed rolling in a 30-footer for birdie on 13, and he couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker on No. 14 after hitting 12 feet past the hole. Owen rolled his par attempt just right of the hole for third bogey, giving Gomez a three-stroke lead with four holes to play. Owen birdied No. 15, but it wasn’t enough.
DIVOTS: The last player from Argentina to win on tour was Cabrera at the 2014 Greenbrier Classic. … Brian Gay won this event by five strokes in 2009. … Gomez becomes the ninth to make this event his first PGA win. He also is only the fifth international player to win in the 58-year history of this tournament, joining Gary Player (1974), Nick Price (1993, 1998) and Greg Norman (1997).
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