RENO, Nev. (AP) — Matt Bettencourt will play in the PGA Championship for the first time thanks to an excellent eagle, pristine putting and a caddie who kept him calm.
That he shot 1-over on the back nine just made it dramatic when Bob Heintz missed a three-foot putt on No. 18 that would have forced a playoff in the Reno-Tahoe Open.
Instead, Bettencourt won for the first time on tour, shooting a 4-under 68 on Sunday that earned him a $540,000 check and an invite to Whistling Straits next month.
“I made some great up and downs,” Bettencourt said. “I feel like I’m as good of a bunker player as anybody in the world.”
After Bettencourt’s eagle on the par-5 11th, he closed with a birdie and two bogeys, including on No. 18. He also bogeyed the par-4 14th at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
The best putter at Reno all week, Bettencourt had 12 one-putts and only 24 total on Sunday. Bettencourt said a lot of the credit for keeping him calm down the stretch went to Matthew Achatz, his caddie on loan from Rocco Mediate while Mediate was working as a TV analyst at the British Open.
“Thank you, Rocco, for letting me use him,” Bettencourt said. “He made me believe in myself.”
Heintz, who shot a 69 Sunday, started the week trying to qualify for a Nationwide Tour event in Ohio before he was notified he’d qualified for Reno and hopped plane to Nevada on Tuesday.
“You hate to see somebody miss one like that at the end but at the same time I played well enough all week to win and didn’t feel like I was really getting the bounces I needed until today,” Bettencourt said. “I’m just so excited, I’ll take it any way you can.”
Heintz, a 40-year-old graduate of Yale with a degree in economics, was pleased to come away with $324,000 for finishing second.
“I think it’s my biggest check ever,” Heintz said. “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. I holed out three times from off the green.”
John Merrick and Mathias Gronberg each shot 69 and tied for third at 9-under.
Robert Gamez (68), Kent Jones (68), Alex Cejka (69), Kevin Stadler (70) and Craig Barlow (72) all finished another stroke back at 8-under.
Bettencourt won the money title on the Nationwide Tour in 2008 and tied for 10th at the U.S. Open last year. He finished 111th on the PGA money list with $740,037 that year.
Bettencourt had a three-stroke lead with five holes to play Sunday but failed to get up and down out of a greenside bunker on the 491-yard 14th.
He drove into the rough left on the 477-yard par-4 15th and had to hook his approach around a tree 165 yards to just right of the green.
He chipped up to 6 feet and made the par putt and scrambled his way to another par on the par-3 16th when he missed the green off the tee, but chipped up to 8 feet.
On the 636-yard, par-5 17th, Bettencourt hit his second shot into a greenside bunker but blasted out to 5 feet and rolled in the birdie to get to 12-under, two strokes ahead of Heintz, who made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th to set up the drama on the final hole.
Earlier, Bettencourt chipped in from 10 feet away in the rough at the par-5 ninth for his third birdie of the day to make the turn with a one-stroke lead over Heintz.
On the 584-yard 11th, he hit his second shot 276 yards onto the edge of the green and made a 7-footer for eagle.
Scott McCarron, a former Reno resident and Montreux member who served as the tournament host, started the day at 10-under with a one-stroke lead over John Mallinger and Robert Garrigus. But he fell to a tie for 35th at 1 under with five bogeys and two double bogeys on the way to an 81.
Mallinger had a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 616-yard 9th – dropping twice from unplayable lies after driving wide left into the trees and sage brush – en route to a 77 and a tie for 21st.