MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Winning the first PGA Tour title of his career at the St. Jude Classic isn’t enough to earn Fabian Gomez a trip to the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
Being fully exempt through the 2016-17 season is more than enough.
“Winning a tournament is a big thing because you have two-year exemption and after that probably play a little less stressful every week and not thinking too much ‘Keep your card,’ you know,” Gomez said Sunday after winning the St. Jude Classic. “Just only win another tournament.”
Gomez knows personally how tough it can be to keep that tour card. He was on tour in 2011 and 2013 before having to earn his card back for 2014-15 by playing on the Web.com Tour. Now the 36-year-old from Argentina has some breathing room now that he turned his piece of the lead after the third round into a four-stroke win that was the biggest at this event, sponsored by FedEx, since Brian Gay won by five in 2009.
“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 through a translator.
Gomez finished at 13-under 267 with four straight rounds in the 60s, including a 4-under 66 Sunday. He came into the final round sharing the 54-hole lead with Greg Owen of England, the second such lead of his career. Unlike the 2013 Puerto Rico Open where he finished tied with Jordan Spieth for second, Gomez carded a five birdie-one bogey round for his first PGA title in his 70th start.
That earned him a $1.08 million winner’s check and a spot as the fifth PGA Tour winner from Argentina, joining 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. “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.”
Owen, who finished with a 70, said he just didn’t play well enough to beat Gomez.
“I think he hit every fairway,” Owen said. “You’ve 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 British Open 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.
Gomez’s lone bogey came at No. 5, and he trailed Owen by two strokes before a birdie on the par 3 No. 8. Gomez 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 blasting out of a greenside bunker 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.
DIVOTS: The last player from Argentina to win on tour was Cabrera at the 2014 Greenbrier Classic. … Gomez is the third straight international player to win on tour, following Steven Bowditch at Byron Nelson and David Lingmerth at Memorial. … 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, ’98) and Greg Norman (1997).
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