Sept. 12, 2004
By Joe Chemycz
PGA TOUR staff
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.-- James Driscoll's fondness for the state of Virginia cemented itself Sunday when the former University of Virginia All-American carded a final-round 68 to win the Virginia Beach Open, his first career title.
Driscoll finished with a tournament-record 15-under-par total of 273, four better than Jason Buha (68), two-time winner Jimmy Walker (68) and third-round leader Kyle Thompson (74).
The win was worth $ 81,000 and pushed Driscoll's season total to $ 224,111, moving him from No. 23 to No. 9 on the money with seven events left to play and all but locked up a berth on the PGA TOUR next year. The top-20 money winners on the Nationwide Tour at the end of the year will earn playing privileges in 2005.
"It feels awesome," said Driscoll, who became the first to win in the same state that he attended college since Charles Warren won the BMW Charity Pro-Am two years ago. "This is such a weird game. Nothing is guaranteed. There are no contracts. You never know when you'll get it going."
It certainly didn't appear Driscoll would get it going to start the final round.
"The first nine holes I didn't know where the ball was going. It was all over the place," he said. "The front nine I don't think I hit one really decent shot."
Driscoll began the day two shots back of Thompson, who also held the 36-hole lead. Battling windy conditions and Sunday nerves, both players went back and forth with a series of birdies, bogeys and an eagle. Fortunately for Driscoll, the scorecards only required a number, not a description.
On the 429-yard, 4th hole and Thompson made pars, but took much different paths. While Thompson played the hole with to a textbook four. Driscoll, on the other hand, "hit a terrible 2-iron, gouged an 8-iron into a bunker and got up and down for a four that never looked like a par. It should have been a six."
Driscoll added insult to injury when he eagled the par-5 eighth after hitting his tee shot right. "Actually, I missed my target by 50 yards," he admitted. "I hit an ugly 5-iron up there to 20 feet and holed the putt."
Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
The pair were knotted at 13-under par after 11 holes, thanks to another errant tee shot that cost Driscoll a bogey on the 10th. With nobody better than 11 under at that point, the final seven holes came down to a battle of the final twosome.
Fortunes, and the future, may have turned on the 615-yard, par-5 12th where Driscoll's two-putt birdie from 50 feet, coupled with Thompson's bogey put the former Cavalier up by two. Thompson bogeyed the next hole, giving Driscoll a three-shot lead.
"Those two holes were huge," said Driscoll. "Kyle had some terrible luck and got an awful lie on 12 and made bogey and then made another one on the next hole where I made a ridiculous sand save."
Thompson, a playoff runner-up at the Scholarship America Showdown, refused to cave in and battled back with birdies on two of his next three holes to inch within two again.
"I tried not to get ahead of myself today," said Driscoll, who hit 12 of 18 greens. "I tried not to over think the leaderboard. He was in the game at 17 tee, no question."
Driscoll then smoothed a 9-iron to within 25 feet on the par-3 and two-putted for a par that gave him a two-shot edge with one to go. With Driscoll on in two, it wasn't until Thompson's greenside bunker shot sailed over the green that the former Wahoo was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Thompson had to settle for a disastrous double-bogey six and a share of second place, leaving Driscoll to relish a home in his home-away-from-home state.