RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — Scott Brown birdied the 18th hole Sunday to go from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot victory in the Puerto Rico Open for his first PGA Tour title.
Brown closed with a 2-under 70. He earned a two-year exemption on Tour and 300 FedExCup points, as well as a spot in the PGA Championship this summer.
Fabian Gomez of Argentina had a one-shot lead until he went over the green and into a bunker on his third shot, blasted out to 15 feet and missed the par putt. He closed with a 71 and tied for second with Jordan Spieth. The 19-year-old from Texas had a 67.
Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein tied for sixth, giving him a spot in the Tampa Bay Championship this week.
Brown finished at 20-under 268 and earned $630,000.
His final birdie was set up with a 3-iron that he kept low to avoid palm trees. It left himself with a 30-yard pitch short of the green.
Gomez, trying to become the first Argentine to win on tour since Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters, was in perfect position off the tee at the 18th. That’s when it went all around.
His second shot left him a tough lie in the bunker, and he blasted that over the green and into another bunker. He missed a 15-foot par putt for a 71, and then had to watch as Brown rapped in the winning putt.
“I thought I would need an eagle as well as he was playing,” Brown said. “So I just stayed aggressive.”
The win does not get the native of Augusta, Ga., into the Masters, but it was a stunning turnaround in so many ways.
Late last year, Brown was on the putting green at Disney in the final event of the year, wondering if he would have to go through the second stage of Q-school. He wound up at 148th on the money list for conditional status, which offered him limited starts on tour this year.
The Puerto Rico Open was one of them, and Brown made the most of it.
He had been planning on playing a full Web.com Tour schedule this year. Instead, he was headed to the Tampa Bay Championship next week and can spend the rest of his season in the big leagues, and start next season in Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions.
“I was nervous over that last putt,” Brown said. “A kid growing up in Augusta, this is a dream come true.”
It was anything but that for Gomez, who earned his tour card at Q-school a year ago.
“On that final hole I hit a good drive off the tee, but followed that with a poor 3-iron and it cost me big,” Gomez said. “I had a very bad lie there and it was a difficult shot, and I was unable to pull it off. But that’s golf. You never know what may happen.”
Gomez tied for second with Spieth, who was playing on a sponsor exemption and now is exempt into the Tampa Bay Championship. Spieth shot 67.
“It was cool to battle on the back nine there and know that I was close in the heat and to feel the pressure,” Spieth said. “It was a first-time experience for me.”
— Entered the day in a tie for the lead with Fabian Gomez at -18. It was the first time he held the lead after any round on Tour. He birdied the last hole to card a final round 70 and win by one over Gomez, who bogeyed the last to give a one stroke lead away, and Jordan Spieth. It is his first career title in his 26th PGA Tour start at the age of 29 years, 9 months, 19 days.
— Broke or tied three tournament records this week. His 72 hole score (268) was one stroke better than Derek Lamely’s (2010). He set a new 54 hole score (199) along with Fabian Gomez. He carded a 63 (-9) in round two to tie the tournament’s best 18 hole score with Derek Lamely (2010), Chris Tidland (2011) and James Driscoll (2011).
–Is the fourth first time winner on Tour this season, joining Russell Henley (Sony Open in Hawaii), John Merrick (Northern Trust Open) and Michael Thompson (The Honda Classic).
–Moves into the top 40 in the FedExCup standings.
–Led the field in total putting with 101 total putts.
–Earns fully-exempt status on the PGA Tour through the 2015 season. If not otherwise eligible, he earns a spot in the following events in 2013: Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, THE PLAYERS Championship, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, the Memorial Tournament, AT&T National and PGA Championship. He also earns a spot in the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
–The spot he has earned in the PGA Championship, secures him his first major championship start later this year.
— A rookie last year on Tour, Brown finished No. 148 on the PGA Tour money list after making eight cuts in 24 starts with three top-10 finishes. A T5 at the Puerto Rico Open and at the True South Classic last year were his previous best career finishes on Tour.
— Brown was recently inducted into the University of South Carolina-Aiken Athletic Hall of Fame, based on leading the Pacers to three consecutive NCAA Division II National Championships (2004-2006).
— Spieth’s T2 is his best finish on Tour in only three starts as a professional. This was Spieth’s 11th Tour start overall. He had started in eight other events as an amateur between 2010 and 2012.
— Came close to becoming the second youngest winner in Tour history at 19 years, 7 months, 13 days. The record belongs to Harry Cooper, who won the 1923 Galveston Open at the age of 19 years, 4 days.
–W s the sixth youngest player to make a cut on Tour at 16 years, 9 months, 24 days during the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship (T16).
— Was a first-team All-America as a freshman at the University of Texas.
— Won the U.S. Junior Amateur twice (2009 and 2011) to become the only golfer other that Tiger Woods to have won that championship multiple times.
–Entered the day in a tie for the lead with Scott Brown at -18. It was the first time he held the lead after any round on Tour. His tie for second is his best career finish in 32 Tour starts.
–A Tour member in 2011, Gomez earned his card back with a T10 finish at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament last December. He is 4-for-6 in cuts made this season, with Sunday’s Puerto Rico Open T2 as his first top 25.
— Previous best career finish on Tour was a T7 at the Puerto Rico Open in 2011. That was his only other start in the Puerto Rico Open.
— Won the 2010 Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour, finishing 12th on that Tour’s money list to earn his rookie card on the PGA Tour for 2011.
– Has four International wins, including the Venezuela Open.
— In round two, Gomez’s 64 was his lowest career round on Tour by two strokes.
–The defending champion George McNeill shot 76 today to finish T57. Michael Bradley (T50) was the other past champion of the Puerto Rico Open in the field this week.
— Rafael Campos finished 76th in his sixth appearance at the Puerto Rico Open. He became the first Puerto Rican to make the cut two times in the Puerto Rico Open. He was also the first to make the cut since the event’s inaugural year of 2008. Playing as an amateur that first year he made the cut along with Miguel Suarez and Wilfredo Morales. Campos played PGA Tour Latinoamérica full-time in 2012, finishing 12th on the Order of Merit with his best finish coming at the Mundo Maya Open (T4).
— Amateur Jorge Garcia of Venezuela shot a 2-over 74 and dropped to 75th at 1-under for the week. On Friday he became the eighth youngest player to make a cut on Tour at 17 years, 1 month, 5 days. The University of Florida commitment is just a sophomore in high school. He earned a spot in the field this week after winning the American Junior Golf Association’s Puerto Rico Open in January.