Planet Golf — 13 November 2019 by Candace Oehler
Walk Off wins for McCarron

PHOENIX, AZ – Granted, it wasn’t the “shot heard round the world,” but Jeff Maggert’s walk off eagle on the third hole of the sudden death playoff against Retief Goosen produced raucous cheers that carried throughout the stately Phoenix Country Club grounds.  Maggert’s unlikely hole-out on the 17th from 124 yards out, when Goosen was already on the green with a good birdie chance, capped a thrilling, down to the wire Charles Schwab Cup Championship that ended just as the sun was setting.

The outcome was taken out of his hands, and he became the most interested spectator on the clubhouse veranda, alternately watching the playoff on the big screen and nervously walking off his nerves.

It was a walk-off with a twist.  Had Goosen won the tournament, the PGA TOUR Champions rookie would have also taken home the Charles Schwab Cub.  Instead, Maggert’s win, his first in over four years, made Scott McCarron the Cup winner.  McCarron, last season’s Schwab Cup runner up, led the points race all season until  disappointing Schwab Cup Championship play (-4, T27) left him in danger of losing his lead.

“I think having the lead for so long coming into the Playoffs was wearing me down a little bit mentally,” he said.  “So it was tough coming into this week knowing that I needed to play well and I didn’t, unfortunately.  But still, things worked out in my favor.”

They worked out thanks to his new BFF, lifted in a bear hug by the Cup winner at the trophy presentation.

“This is the destination, to win, but it really came down to Jeff Maggert holing a shot, it was amazing, with a wedge.  I still can’t believe he did that,” marveled McCarron.

Maggert, by the way, was completely unaware of the potential scenarios, concentrating solely on breaking his winless streak of 96 starts.

 “I didn’t even know about the points,” he said.  “I was in the cart going back to the playoff with Miller Brady, our president, I said, ‘Well, who won the Schwab Cup,’ and he looks at me like I was nuts.  He says, ‘Well, it’s not over yet.’  I mean, not the tournament, like who won the thing, did Scott or who won it?  And he goes, ‘Well, Retief might win it if he wins.’  I was like, I was shocked.  I didn’t even know that Retief was even in the picture at this point.”

Much about this Championship was noteworthy:

McCarron’s consecutive 4th, 3rd and 2nd place finishes in Cup competition, finally culminating in a win.

The dizzying mathematical scenarios, with up to five players each with the opportunity to win the Cup, depending on what the others did. Jerry Kelly, for example, came into the tournament second in points.  A tournament win would have guaranteed him the Cup, however, he finished at -14, T10.

Maggert’s comeback, after a drought that began after he won four times in 2015.  “Well, four years without winning out here is like 20 years on the regular tour because you don’t have a long time out here on this tour.”

Goosen’s success as a PGA TOUR Champions rookie. The South African finished with the Tour’s best scoring average (69.14), and is the seventh player to win the scoring title as a rookie. He ended Bernhard Langer’s five-year streak as the Tour’s scoring leader.

The outstanding play of the 34 golfers in the field.  Said Maggert, “If you took the field this week or really any tournament on our tour and you turned back the clock 20 years, you’d be like, wow, we’ve got like 30 of the best players in the world playing in this tournament.  That’s really almost what it week in and week is out.  We’re just not 25 anymore, we’re 55.  But the golf is fantastic.” 

Perhaps most astonishing was the always-consistent Bernhard Langer failing to capture his sixth Charles Schwab Cup.  He did provide the fireworks on Sunday, however, with an ace on the 194-yard 8th hole.

An emotional McCarron, was open about the pressure he felt this week, and noted how much he appreciated the encouragement of previous Cup winners Langer and Tom Lehman. 

“The only guys that really know how difficult it is are the guys that have been there.  Nobody knows what it’s like when you’re trying to win these things.”

He added, “It’s no secret, I’ve told everyone this is what I wanted, I wanted to win the Schwab Cup.  I have worked, just like everyone works, extremely hard this year to get in that position.  Once I got in the position, I have to admit it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

But, he did it with a little help from his friend.

Last, but not least …. One of the more interesting stories this week was that of Doug Barron, who earned the 36th and final spot in the field, and finished the tournament in the middle of the pack at -10, T17. More Ton him, plus an interview with Tournament Executive Director Tiffany Nelson soon.

Good luck with this one, 14th hole

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Candace Oehler’s deep dive into sports media began several decades ago when she won a trip from Seattle to Mariners spring training in Arizona. Noting that non-English-speaking Latino ball players received little, if any, media coverage, she fluently/en español became a pioneer in Spanish sports media, and eventually became known affectionately throughout the Latino MLB community as “La Veterana.” Candace has written for team publications and MLB.com; hosted her own radio show on several Spanish-language stations; served as producer/reporter/engineer for the Mariners’ inaugural season of Spanish radio broadcasts; and has been a reporter for MLB Network Radio the past 10 years. She was invited to Venezuela by future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel to cover rebuilding efforts and accomplishments of his charitable foundation following the devastating 1999 mudslides; worked in Puerto Rico for former Major Leaguers Joey Cora and Carlos Baerga managing fundraising events; and was the only female in the raucous locker room when the hometown favorite Licey Tigers won the 2004 Caribbean World Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Candace was introduced to the game of golf in 1992 by members of Seattle’s historic Fir State Golf Club, who had approached her to manage their (then) little fundraising tournament hosted by a shy, gangly 15-year old Tiger Woods. Candace co-managed the annual event for nearly 20 years, working with hosts that included Ken Griffey, Sr., Birdie Griffey, Mike Cameron, Nate McMillan, Warren Moon, and Dale Ellis. She became secretary of the club and the Fir State Junior Golf Foundation, and got totally, completely hooked on golf, learning to play on a set of Redbirds given to her by the club (apparently they considered her mother’s Patty Bergs a bit antiquated). She has since traded up to another set of Redbirds and a much more user-friendly golf environment in Arizona. And, once a prolonged stint on the DL is over, she can’t wait to get back on the course and continue lowering her current 21-handicap to ….?

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