Augusta’s Scott Parel went seven holes and two days in a playoff to decide the Champions Tour tournament in Biloxi that was scheduled to end Sunday, but all it got him was a fourth runner-up finish over the past 12 months.
Parel and eventual winner Kevin Sutherland went five extra holes late Sunday afternoon after tying at 7-under 209. The playoff was halted by darkness and resumed Monday morning, with Sutherland winning with a birdie on the seventh extra hole.
Sutherland began the final round with a 3-stroke lead, but played 23 holes Sunday without a birdie before finally making one on his second hole Monday morning. The birdie came on the 18th hole of the Fallen Oak course, which accounted for six of the seven playoff holes.
Before making the winning birdie putt Monday morning, Sutherland squandered several chances to win the tournament, missing a reasonable birdie putt on the final hole of regulation Sunday and a few more opportunities early in the playoff, including a short par miss on the second extra hole.
Parel needed a birdie at 18 on his final hole in regulation to get into the playoff, and needed at least two clutch par putts to extend the playoff. He had one legitimate chance for a birdie in the playoff, but missed shortly before play was halted for the day. He saved par on the first playoff hole Monday morning, but was finally closed out by Sutherland on the next hole.
Parel, who shot 69 Sunday to rally from a 6-stroke deficit after 36 holes, was not the only Georgian to have a chance to win the annual tour stop formerly known as the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
Atlanta’s Billy Andrade took the tournament lead late Sunday with three holes to play, but bogeys at 16 and 18 cost him his lead, and he finished in third place, one shot out of the playoff.
It was the second straight year both Andrade and Parel made a run at victory in Biloxi. Andrade placed second last year and Parel tied for third behind 2018 winner Steve Stricker, who pulled away late in the final round with a Sunday sprint to the finish.
Despite the disappointing endings for Parel and Andrade, it was a profitable weekend for both Georgians. Parel took hom $140,800 for his runner-up finish, and improved from 24 to 11 on the Charles Schwab Cup money list. Andrade collected $115,000 for his third place showing and improved from 49 to 20 on the money list, well inside 36th place, the number to advance to the last of three Playoffs events later this season.
Parel was among the leaders after a first round 68, but had four bogeys in a second round 72 to fall six shots off Sutherland’s lead. Parel got off to a hot start Sunday morning with birdies on his first two holes, but dropped back to even par for the day as he made the turn. Birdies at 13 and 16 got Parel into contention, and he birdied the 18th after an excellent approach to move into a tie for the lead. His final round 69 in frigid conditions matched the low score of the day.
He did not give himself many birdie opportunities in the playoff, but hung in until Sutherland holed the winning birdie putt. It was the first top 10 of 2019 for Parel in six starts, his best prior showings ties for 13th and 11th. He had 11 top-10 finishes last year, including late-season victories in Seattle and Los Angeles, the latter one of the Champions Tour’s Playoffs events. He ended up fifth on the final money list.
Andrade opened the tournament in Mississippi with a 71 highlighted by a hole-out for eagle on the par-4 11th. He moved into contention with a second round 68, with his only bogey of the day coming at the 18th hole.
As the final round began, Andrade trailed Sutherland by five shots, but birdies at 12, 13 and 15 gave him the outright lead at 8-under. He missed the green with his approach at the 16th and made bogey, and suffered his only three-putt of the tournament at the 18th to fall out of a share of the lead. Andrade closed with a 71 after being 3-under through 15 holes.
The third place finish was Andrade’s first top 10 of the season. In his previous four starts, Andrade’s best showing was a tie for 15th in Newport Beach, Calif., in his most recent appearance before Biloxi.
Andrade, who had eight top 10s last year and finished among the top 30 on the Champions Tour for a fifth straight time, has not won since 2015, when he collected all three of his titles since turning 50.
The next Champions Tour event will be played at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth April 19-21, with Andrade, Parel and Sutherland among a strong field that includes Bernhard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez, the first two winners of Gwinnett’s Champions Tour event, and 2018 champion Steve Flesch.
Other prominent players who have already committed to the tournament include Tom Watson, John Daly, Larry Nelson and Scott McCarron, all past winners of Atlanta’s PGA Tour stop; Georgia natives Gene Sauers and Larry Mize; and international players Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Champions Tour rookie Retief Goosen. Duluth’s Scott Dunlap, who has not played this season after undergoing off-season wrist surgery, is hopeful of making his first start of 2019 at Sugarloaf.
Savannah Championship: The Web.com Tour visited Savannah’s Landings community for the second straight year, but last week’s tournament lacked the late fireworks of the inaugural event.
Dan McCarthy, who won four times on the 2016 Canadian Tour and is in his third Web.com season, scored his first victory on the tour with a 16-under 272 total, edging recent U. of Texas golfer Scottie Scheffler by a shot.
The two were part of a three-way tie for the lead after 54 holes, with McCarthy winning after a steady final round 69. Scheffler had six birdies Sunday, including three in a row at 14, 15 and 16 to tie McCarthy for the lead, but suffered his fourth bogey of the day at the 17th.
Last year’s tournament was highlighted by a spirited birdie battle over the closing holes by young pro Sam Burns and Alpharetta’s Roberto Castro, a former Georgia Tech standout, with Burns winning by a shot. Both are on the PGA Tour this year.
The low finishers among the Georgia contingent at the Landings were Australia native and Atlanta resident Jamie Arnold and Fayetteville resident and former Clayton State golfer Wade Binfield, who tied for ninth at 278. Former Georgia Tech golfer Nicholas Thompson was T12 at 279. The tournament was played on the Landings’ Deer Creek course, a Tom Fazio design.
Through seven tournaments, recent Georgia Tech golfer Vince Whaley is 11th on the money list, with Atlanta resident Drew Weaver 14th. Just outside the top 25, the cutoff for earning a spot on the 2019-20 PGA Tour are Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly (27), former Clayton State golfer Willy Wilcox (28) and Binfield (29). Among the top 75, the cutoff for exempt status nest year and a chance to qualify for next season’s PGA Tour via the Web.com Finals, are Arnold (38), former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin (61) and ex-Georgia Bulldog Erik Compton (74).
The Web.com Tour next plays April 18-21 in a new event at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Capitol Hill facility Senator course, which hosted the Web.com Tour Championship for several years in the 1990s. The tour also makes two stops in Tennessee and two in the Carolinas later this Spring.