Created: 03/23/2014 5:57 PM
By: DAVID BRANDT
SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) — Jeff Maggert admitted his decisive putt on No. 17 at Fallen Oak wasn't supposed to be one that actually dropped. He was just trying to get it close.
So when the 50-foot putt rolled up and down a big ridge as it broke from left to right — and then fell into the hole — the Champions Tour rookie was as surprised as anyone.
He had been consistent all week. Now just a little bit of luck had pushed him to victory at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak on Sunday.
"You can't count on those going in very often," Maggert said with a grin.
Maggert became the 17th player in Champions Tour history to win in his debut, shooting a 4-under 68 to capture his first victory since the 2006 St. Jude's Classic on the PGA Tour.
The 50-year-old fell into a tie for the lead with Billy Andrade after making bogey on No. 16, but responded with the astonishing putt that pushed him back ahead.
"I was just trying to hit an easy lag putt," Maggert said. "I wanted an easy tap-in for par and it was just one of those things — the ball found the hole."
When it dropped, Maggert shook his head in disbelief. He finished the tournament with an 11-under 205.
Maggert is a three-time PGA Tour winner who turned 50 in February. His consistent weekend included a 68 on Friday, a 69 on Saturday and he capped his debut performance at Fallen Oak with four birdies on the back nine on Sunday to earn the $240,000 paycheck.
"I had expectations to play well, but I didn't know if I would play well enough to win," Maggert said. "I'd been struggling a little with my game, but everything just kind of came together. It was one of the best tournaments, as far as ball striking, that I've had in a few years in any event. That really carried me through."
Andrade, who started the day tied with Fred Funk for the lead, shot a 71 to finish in second two strokes back.
Andrade and Funk started the final round on top of a tight leaderboard, with a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples, Jay Haas and Maggert. The round was pushed back two hours because of rain, but the slightly soggy course didn't affect scoring much.
Funk fell off the pace quickly, finishing with a 75. Haas was steady, but could never get on a roll and shot a 71 to finish tied for third with Bernhard Langer, who jumped up the leaderboard with a 68.
Couples — who won the Toshiba Classic last week — faded after shooting a 66 to take a two-stroke lead in the opening round. He shot a 72 on Sunday to finish fifth.
That left Andrade as Maggert's biggest challenger. The 50-year-old was playing in just his fourth Champions Tour event and had the lead at the turn, but made three bogeys on the back nine to fall out of contention.
Andrade hasn't played much the past four years while working part-time as an analyst for The Golf Channel. He said Sunday's back nine was frustrating, but that the weekend had shown him "that I still do have a little talent and I can play with these guys."
"I haven't been in this type of situation in a long time," Andrade said. "It's probably going to take me a little while to get the rust off when it comes to nerves and being in the hunt."
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