(Reuters) – Cameron Champ is probably the longest driver the PGA Tour has ever seen, but his putter won him the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi on Sunday.
Less than a year after turning pro, the American squandered a four-shot lead in the final round before steadying himself with four straight birdies from the 13th to fend off a challenge from Canadian Corey Conners at Country Club of Jackson.
“Today was a new experience,” Champ said in a greenside interview after closing out in style with another birdie at the last for a four-under-par 68. He one-putted the final six holes.
“It wasn’t the front nine I wanted. On the back side I brought it all together and finished strong.”
Champ completed the tournament on 21-under 267, while Conners also carded 68 for second place on 17-under.
Champ attracted plenty of attention on the secondary Web.Com Tour last year when he averaged 343 yards off the tee, a single-season driving distance record.
But the American showed on Sunday that he is not a one-trick pony, and was quick to share the credit for his win.
“All the hard work over the years, all the sacrifices my family has made for me to be able to have this opportunity … now a PGA Tour winner, it’s just unreal,” said the 23-year-old from California.
The final margin belied the close nature of the head-to-head battle.
Indeed Conners looked set to tie for the lead at the par-four 15th, only to miss a seven-foot eagle putt after driving the green.
Champ padded his lead to two shots when he drained a 40-foot birdie at the 16th.
His putter remained hot when he saved par from 15 feet at the 17th to retain a two-shot cushion heading to the last.
Champ had a less-than-ideal start on Sunday when his driver cracked while he was warming up, forcing him to send his father to collect his back-up.
That perhaps contributed to Champ’s tardy start and when he reached the turn he was tied with the fast-starting Conners, setting up a head-to-head duel on the back nine.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)