MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Woody Austin knows only too well that no one has followed up a PGA Tour victory by winning the U.S. Open the next week, and he won’t be a favorite at Oakmont Country Club.
He doesn’t care.
The 43-year-old is going to the major tournament he thinks fits his game best coming off the best final round on tour this year, a stunning 8-under 62 that rallied him from a four-stroke deficit to a five-stroke victory Sunday at the Stanford St. Jude Championship and his third career win.
“Obviously, the odds are still really good it’s not going to happen,” Austin said.
“But I know personally … that’s always been my one tournament I felt like I could always play, and the fact that I’m now getting close to where I feel like my game is coming around, that’s just going to give me that much more confidence.”
This event featured six of the world’s top 12 golfers, Adam Scott trying to become the tour’s first wire-to-wire winner this year, and John Daly’s messy personal life overshadowing the golf when he accused his wife of waking him up by attacking him with a steak knife Friday morning.
Daly, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, went from tied for eighth after 18 to 79th out of 80 players.
Austin turned the attention back to golf with the best final round in the 50-year history of this tournament and the tour’s lowest closing round since Brad Faxon’s 61 at the 2006 Buick Championship.
He went bogey-free over the final 49 holes and carded an eagle and six birdies Sunday for a 13-under 267 total on a course where his best finish had been a tie for 44 in 2005. His winner’s check was $1.08 million, his first since the 2004 Buick Championship, with the best round this week.
Austin also won the 1995 Buick Open.
Not bad for someone who turned 43 in January and had missed five cuts with his only top-25 showing coming with a tie for 18th in New Orleans in April.
“I played one of those dream rounds of golf,” Austin said.
Scott would have moved up a spot to No. 3 in the world with a victory, and he opened with a three-stroke lead. He had a share of the lead with Austin through 12 holes before falling apart with a triple bogey and four bogeys down the stretch.
He finished with a 75 and finished seventh at 276.
“I’m going to be hard on myself. I really should be,” Scott said.
Brian Davis (66) was second with a 272, followed by two-time Memphis winner David Toms (69-273), Brian Gay (70-274) and Brandt Snedeker and Dean Wilson, who tied with 68s for 275.
Everyone here wanted to prep under tournament pressure for the Open. Sergio Garcia finished before the leaders teed off, and Vijay Singh wasn’t far behind. Neither broke par.
Only Austin responded with his best finish since tying for seventh at the 2006 Buick Open. A self-taught player, he identified a flaw in his swing two weeks ago and had been working to turn his club to the inside on his downswing with his caddie, Brent Henley.
The changes clicked nearly perfectly Sunday with great iron play, including a lob wedge holed out for eagle from 64 yards out on the par-5 No. 5. Combined with a birdie on No. 2, Austin felt everything come together on the par-4 No. 7 when he hit right at the pin.
He parred that hole by two-putting, but his best shot came on the par-3 No. 14 – the toughest hole on the course with water guarding most of the green. He stuck a 5-iron within 3 feet for birdie, and what had been a one-stroke lead over Scott suddenly became a three-stroke lead.
Austin finished off what he called his best round other than the 57 shot once at home with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. He celebrated the 16-footer on the par-4 17th with a fist pump, followed up by one more just for good measure.
“That was a true round of golf and was one of those surprises that we all get every once in a while,” Austin said. “I’m just happy it happened to me on a Sunday when it really mattered.”
He became the fifth player in his 40s to win on tour this year, and his five-stroke victory matches the largest margin this year. Phil Mickelson, who withdrew from the event to allow a sore wrist to heal for the Open, also won by five at the AT&T Pebble Beach.
Divots: Austin’s comeback was the best at this event since Len Mattiace won after trailing by seven in 2002. … The previous low final round by the winner of this tournament was a 7-under 64 by Jay Haas in 1992, Mattiace in 2002 and Toms in 2003. Austin’s 62 was the best final round since Nick Price shot a 62 in 2004 but finished tied for fourth. … With 4,500 points, Austin moved from 145th in the FedExCup points race to 29th, or as he put it, “From outside to inside. I wasn’t even inside.”