Kevin Sutherland, who hadn't won in his 78 starts on the over-50s Champions Tour, came through on Sunday to finally make his seniors breakthrough when it really mattered - in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at the Phoenix Country Club.
He also carried off the Charles Schwab Cup for the 2017 season's points race in which the points are reset before the big season-ending finale to give everybody in the field a technical chance of winning the Cup.
The big loser because of this points reset was German legend Bernhard Langer, who dominated seniors golf in 2017 and won the first two Charles Schwab playoffs, but could only finish in a tie for 12th this week despite closing with a 64 and slipped back from being the points race leader into second place, thus losing out on winning the Cup for a 4th straight time.
"There were meant to be playoffs, but everybody in the field was given a chance to win," Langer said, indicating that he was a little sorry that all the points he had accumulated during the season and in the other playoffs had counted for so little in the final.
On the other hand, who Sutherland shot a bogey-free, one-eagle, three-birdie closing round of 5-under 66 to finish with a 15-under 199 three-round total that was good enough to snatch for him a one-stroke victory from Fiji's Vijay Singh (63) and fellow American Lee Janzen (68), was over the moon with his duel triumph
"I don't even know. It's a whirlwind thing. It's amazing," he said afterwards. "I mean, the names on this trophy are incredible. I've seen it, and to be on that list is just ...I can't even put words to it...too amazing."
John Daly and South Africa's David Frost both closed with 65's to tie with David Toms (67) for third place, a further shot back on 200.
Although this was the 53-year-old Sutherland's first win in his three years in over-50s golf, he nevertheless entered the week fifth in the Charles Schwab Cup points standings - the last position where a player needed only to win the $440,000 first prize to capture the $1 million annuity that goes to the Schwab Cup race winner.
Sutherland, the only player ever to have shot 59 on the Champions Tour, had a healthy 15 top-10s this season, finishing second three times and third twice.
"I played really well all year but I just couldn't find a way to get a win. So, to win this tournament, it's unbelievable. I'm sure in a couple days it will sink in a little bit, but right now it just seems like I'm not even sure it really happened, I keep pinching myself. It feels good and it's been a long time since I won a tournament."
Sutherland had a 63 on Friday to move within two strokes of leader Paul Goydos, the tournament winner last year at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale. Goydos closed with a 72 in a tie for ninth at 9 under.
"I know Paul didn't have the best day today," Sutherland said. "Paul's a good friend of mine, but it allowed me to kind of sneak in there and win.
"He's my biggest supporter," Sutherland said with a laugh. "He's constantly telling everybody about how well I'm playing. I'm like, 'Paul, I don't need a publicist.'"
Langer, who led this year's Champions Tour with seven victories, including three of the five majors, and set an earnings record with $3,677,359, has never won a season-ending final
"I have to pinch myself," he said. "Just got to be really grateful and thankful."
LEADING FINAL SCORES
(Par 71 - the USA unless stated)
198 Kevin Sutherland 69 63 66
199 Vijay Singh (FIJ) 64 72 63, Lee Janzen 64 67 68
200 John Daly 69 66 65, David Frost (RSA) 68 65 67, David Toms 66 67 67
201 Brandt Jobe 67 67 67, Billy Mayfair 67 65 69
202 Wes Short, Jr. 73 65 64, Scott McCarron 68 66 68, Paul Goydos 64 66 72
203 Fred Couples 69 72 62, Scott Parel 69 70 64, Bernhard Langer (GER) 71 68 64, Scott Dunlap 68 70 65, Kenny Perry 72 66 65
204 Joe Durant 66 70 68, Glen Day 65 68 71
205 Paul Broadhurst (ENG) 67 70 68, Corey Pavin 66 69 70, Jerry Smith 65 70 70.
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