Nick Price needed a victory to complete this Principal Charity Classic trifecta: win, place and show.
And he got it, winning the title at Glen Oaks by a record four shots.
“This was a big day for me,” said Price, a gentleman golfer who owns two PGA Championships and a British Open title. “I think if I had not finished it off, it would have left a psychological scar in me because I couldn’t have played any better than I did this week.”
Price had taken a one-shot lead into the final round of the 2008 Principal Charity Classic and finished third. He also took a one-shot lead into the final round in 2009 and was the first man eliminated from a sudden-death playoff with eventual winner Mark McNulty and Fred Funk. Price shared the lead with Tommy Armour III heading into the final round in 2010.
“I’d like to win, yeah, I really would,” Price said after opening with rounds of 67 and 65. “This is a good course to win on. Without getting ahead of myself, I felt pretty good about my chances this week when I got here.”
Price was coming off a fifth-place finish the week before at the Senior PGA Championship, when his ball-striking was superb and his putting average at best. But he played with some friends at his home course in Hobe Sound, Fla., two days before the first round of the Principal.
“I shot 64, and hit every short exactly how I wanted to,” Price said. “The only thing that would have gotten in my way this week was me.”
There was one ominous cloud hanging over Price as he teed off in Sunday’s final round. He had a 1-7 career record in PGA TOUR Champions events when leading or sharing the lead heading into the final round. That included an 0-2 record at Glen Oaks. Price was well aware of that dubious record.
“I didn’t want to go to sleep on the lead and have to answer questions next year about being in the lead after two rounds,” Price said.
Armour, who had been on top of the leaderboard since a first-round 63, opened the final round with 10 consecutive pars. And he found himself four shots behind Price, who had picked up birdies at Nos. 4, 6, 9 and 10.
“Nick got ahead, and I missed a couple of makeable putts,” Armour said.
It was a pressure-free march to victory for Price on the back nine. His first bogey of the day, and just the third of the tournament, didn’t come until the 17th hole. He still went to the final hole with a two-shot lead, and saw it double when Armour made double bogey.
Price closed with a 67 for a winning total of 14-under 199. Armour posted a 71. John Cook (66) and Loren Roberts (68) tied for third, five back.
For three days, Price hit 81 percent of the fairways, and 76 percent of the greens in regulation. He averaged 28.7 putts per round and found just one bunker in his three trips around the Tom Fazio design.
“Sometimes you question your desire, and whether you’ve got it,” Price said. “I was playing so poorly my first two years out here.”
He hadn’t played poorly at Glen Oaks. Just not quite good enough to win, despite a 68.0 scoring average per round in 2008 and 2009. All six rounds had been under par.
Price won $258,750 for his victory. More importantly, his closing record improved to 2-7. And he had added a win to his Principal place and show.
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter