Bettencourt wins first PGA title despite bogey on 72nd hole
RENO – After a third-round meltdown on Saturday, which included a four-putt double bogey on a par-3, you had to wonder whether 36-hole co-leader Matt Bettencourt had the intestinal fortitude to come back.
Bettencourt answered any naysayers with a 4-under-par 68 Sunday to win the 12th annual Reno-Tahoe Open Sunday afternoon at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Bettencourt finished with an 11-under 277, tying him with 1999 champ Notah Begay for the highest score to win the tournament. The win, besides earning him $540,000, also gives him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour as well as putting him in contention for the tour playoffs. He became the sixth PGA player to win his first tournament at the RTO.
Bettencourt edged Bob Heintz, who missed a 3 1/2-foot putt on the final hole, by one shot. Heintz shot a final-round 69 for a 278. John Merrick (73) and Mathias Gronberg (69) tied for third at 279. Robert Gamez (68), Kent Jones (68), Alex Cejka (69), Kevin Stadler (70) and Craig Barlow (72) all tied for fifth at 8-under 280.
Scott McCarron, who led the tournament after three rounds, soared to an 81 and finished tied for 35th.
“This is just incredible for me, giving me so many opportunities,” Bettencourt said. “Now, I’ve got an opportunity to make the playoffs which is really a big thing. I have security for the next couple of years which is all I can really ask for. I’m going to start at the SBS in Maui, which, wow, is going to be pretty cool.
“You know 75 is as high as I could’ve shot (Saturday), and I hit two errant shots, and it cost me two double-bogeys. I really felt like I shot under-par yesterday even though I shot 75.”
Bettencourt played well all day Sunday, but he admitted that he thought he was headed to a playoff after bogeying the final hole to fall back to 11-under-par.
Bettencourt hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker and then put his approach shot into the greenside bunker. He blasted out to 10 feet but missed the putt. That left it up to Heintz to make a 3-foot-4-inch putt to send the tournament to a sudden-death playoff.
Heintz lipped it out and had to settle for second place and a check for $324,000.
“I wish I’d stayed more committed to my line,” Bettencourt said of his tee shot on 18. “There are only two plays (for me). Drive it to the front of the green and take everything out of play or hit a hybrid. My caddie wanted me to hit driver, but I’m stubborn.
“Bob Heintz played a great round. I told my caddie that he (Heintz) had an easy putt and let’s regroup. My heart goes out to Bob.”
Heintz was disappointed, but admitted the second-place finish takes a lot of pressure off him. He automatically qualifies to go to Canada next week.
“I wanted it inside the hole,” Heintz said. “They were being nice on TV saying it was left edge. I wanted it inside the hole and I did start it at the left edge, and I missed. It was about a three-quarter inch to one-inch pull.
“The putting stroke that I talked about the other day held out for a very long time, and it really wasn’t a terrible putt. It just wasn’t good enough. I can handle it, I’m a big boy.”
Heintz used a 3-wood off the tee and drove it 308 yards. Instead of hitting a sand wedge, he went with a gap wedge and stuck it close.
“Adjusted, it was 108 yards and 93 to the front with all the altitude adjustments,” Heintz said. “I knew after watching Chad’s (Campbell) ball bounce that if I hit my normal sand wedge I was going to fly the hole and be in the back bunker. I trusted myself to haul off on a lob wedge, and I was right. I was pretty proud of that shot.”
Both Bettencourt and Heintz played extremely well on the front side. They entered the day tied at 7-under-par.
Bettencourt birdied Nos. 2,6 and 9 to make the turn in 33. On No. 2, Bettencourt hit a 9-iron to 3-feet. On No. 6, he hit a 134-yard approach shot to 14 inches. His birdie at No. 9 was a short chip out of the rough.
Heintz nearly matched him, racking up birdies at Nos. 5, 6 and 7 before bogeying the par-5 9th. He chipped in three times from off the green, including a 50-foot bunker shot.
“I holed out three times from off the green, and it was really clutch,” Heintz said. “I wasn’t nearly as tidy with my irons, but I kind of played like the Bob of old where my survival instincts kicked in, and my short game was just shy of brilliant all day.”
Bettencourt said it was key that he got through the final three holes on the front nine. He played Nos. 7, 8 and 9 6-over-par on Friday and Saturday, but was 1-under-par on Sunday.
Bettencourt said the key hole was No. 11. He carded two birdies and two eagles over the four-day event at the par-5.
“It was playing pretty long,” he said. “I figured there were maybe who could reach it in two into the wind. I hit a good drive there and just hit a 3-wood as solid as I could hit it and it never left the stick. Fortunately we got up there (to the green) and it was five feet (actually closer to 8) from the hole. I rolled that eagle in, and it gave me a nice little cushion.”
It gave Bettencourt a 3-shot advantage, and he was able to make it stand up.
Bettencourt did miss some greens on the back nine, but it was usually in good spots, and he was able to get it up and down until the 18th when his first two shots went into the trap.
That set the stage for the heart-wrenching finish.