RENO, Nev. (AP) — Scott Piercy was so pumped up, his hands were shaking with a one-stroke lead at the Reno-Tahoe Open and only the 616-yard closing hole standing between him and his first victory on the PGA Tour.
Fearful of the sagebrush-filled waste area where he hit an errant drive left and took a quadruple-bogey nine a year ago, he pulled out his driver and aimed down the right where he ended up on the edge of a cart path along more sage surrounded by tall pine trees.
But instead of heading directly toward his ball with the biggest round of his life on the line, the 32-year-old Las Vegas native made a detour to help playing partner Josh Teater look for his ball after Teater made the same sort of nasty hook that doomed Piercy the year before.
Part etiquette, part chance to catch his breath, the break in the action might have been just what he needed to settle down and close out with a 7-foot par putt on Sunday for a 2-under-par 70. He beat Pat Perez by one stroke at 16-under 273.
“I had the adrenaline pumping. The hands start shaking when you get that much adrenaline going,” said Piercy, who had led by three strokes with only seven holes to go.
That edge dwindled to one after he bogeyed, and Perez carded consecutive birdies.
“It probably gave me a little time to collect myself and breathe it out and calm myself down,” he said.
“You never want to look for a ball because that’s a bad thing, but you know, probably gave me a little more time. Didn’t have to sit in the fairway and watch the group in front of us, either. So it was good and bad, you know?”
Good for Piercy, it turns out.
After knocking his ball out safely, he pitched onto the green about 30 feet from the pin. Needing only a 2-putt to win, he sent his first attempt 7 feet past the hole before wobbling in the winner.
“Yeah, 30 feet and 2-putting is not as easy as it looks sometimes,” said Piercy, who started the week ranked 142nd on the money list with $365,162 but now will see his earnings approach $1 million for the second time.
When the putt dropped, he said he could only think of one word.
“Finally,” said Piercy, whose best previous finish in his three years on tour was a tie for sixth at the Honda Classic in 2009. “It kind of feels like I got the monkey off the back.”
“I’ve been in the final group five times, I think, and didn’t close the deal,” he said. “I always thought I could do it and it was just a matter of doing it. Now I did it … A big sigh of relief.”
A day after setting the course record with a 61, Piercy had to scramble his way around the 7,472-yard mountain course at Montreux Golf & Country Club to claim the $540,000 winner’s check.
The first native Nevadan to win the 13-year-old tourney also locked up a spot in next week’s PGA Championship.
“We had vacation planned next week. Now I’ve got to cancel,” he joked afterward.
Perez shot a 68 to finish at 274, his third runner-up finish to go with one career tour victory.
“I missed three putts inside 10 feet the last three holes. That’s not going to win,” said Perez, who added there was nothing good he could think of to take away from the experience.
“No, no positive. Second, second, second. First loser,” he said.
Steve Flesch, who won the 2007 Reno-Tahoe Open, shot a 68 on Sunday. Blake Adams had a 69 to tie for third, another stroke back.
“Best I’ve played in a couple of years,” said Flesch, 44, who claimed the most recent of his four career PGA victories four years ago.
“It makes me feel good that I can still play. I kind of would get to the point where I didn’t know if I could even compete any more out here with some of these guys,” he said. “I needed to play the par-5s better this week.”
Jim Renner shot a 68 to claim fifth place at 12 under.
Steve Elkington and first-round leader Nick O’Hern both closed with 71s to finish in a group another two strokes back with Matt McQuillan (66) and Ben Martin (69).