COOLUM, Australia (AP) – Australasian Tour rookie Daniel Popovic completed an improbable wire-to-wire victory in the Australian PGA, shooting a 3-under 69 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory.
Popovic finished at 16-under 272 at the Palmer Coolum resort. The Australian opened with rounds of 64, 70 and 69.
Rod Pampling birdied the first six holes to take the lead after nine holes, but dropped four strokes on the final three holes – making bogeys on 16 and 17 and a double bogey on 18 – to fall into a tie for second with fellow Australian Anthony Brown. Pampling had a 69, and Brown shot 71.
Popovic nearly quit golf earlier this year to care for his seriously ill father.
“I just can't believe this is happening,'' Popovic said as he walked up the 18th fairway with his ball safely on the green. “I am just going to try to enjoy this now.''
Moments later, he tapped in for par, did a left-handed fist pump and doffed his cap to the crowd.
“It has just hit me all over suddenly,'' he said after accepting the winner's check for $225,000. “I was just so confident, and that never left me. Sure I made several stupid mistakes, but I bounced back quite nicely.''
Pampling looked set for his first win since the Australian Masters in 2008. He has two wins on the U.S. PGA Tour, the last in 2006 at the Bay Hill Invitational. This year, he finished just outside the top 125 – 127th place – to lose his PGA tour card, then failed at qualifying school two weeks ago, meaning he will have only conditional status next year in the U.S.
Errant tee shots on 16 and 17 led to bogeys, then his approach on 18 went into the water.
Australia's Geoff Ogilvy fell short in his bid to finish in the top three to ensure a top-50 finish in the year-end world ranking and a spot in the Masters. He shot a 69 to tie for fourth.