SPRINGFIELD, MO - Chris Wilson two-putted for birdie from 12 feet on the first playoff hole and defeated fellow Northwestern alum Scott Harrington to win the Web.com Tour's Price Cutter Charity Championship.
The two former Wildcats were knotted at 21-under 267 after four trips around the Highland Springs Country Club course and forced the seventh playoff in the tournament's 23-year history but the first since 2000.
"It's comforting knowing I can perform when it matters most," said Wilson, who picked up a check for $112,500 and vaulted from No. 165 to No. 23 on the money list. "Anyone can do it in practice."
Wilson hadn't been doing much of anything positive this year and had missed 11 of 13 cuts prior to the start of the week. A trip to famed sports psychologist Bob Rotella in Virginia a few weeks back might have been the turning point for Wilson.
"We simplified a lot of things," said the Tour's 11th first-time winner in 17 events. "We changed my approach to putting and that's helped to eliminate a lot of the distractions I was having."
Wilson entered the week ranked No. 132 out of 136 players in putting. The 27-year old from suburban Columbus, Ohio improved that stat dramatically over the past four days and finished T8 in the category.
"I've been close the past couple weeks," he said while maintaining a tight grip on his first trophy of any kind since a mini-tour win in 2008. "When you have confidence in your putter it just frees up every other aspect of your game."
Wilson started the final round one shot back of 54-hole co-leaders Harrington and David Lingmerth and remained patient while posting nine pars on the front and falling behind several early starters who were chalking up birdies at a rapid pace.
Things turned on the back when Wilson busted a driver to within 65 yards of the green on the 394-yard, 10th hole.
"We hadn't hit driver there all week but the wind was down and from left to right," he said. "It just set up perfectly for us."
A pitch to close range resulted in his first red number of the day. The 2006 Big 10 Conference Champion turned back into the wind and hit a driver, 4-iron to 20-feet on the par-5, 11th and canned the putt for eagle to get him into contention at 19-under par.
Meantime, up ahead, Robert Streb closed out a 65 and posted an 18-under score. Matt Hendrix followed with a 66 to go one better at minus-19. Andy Winings, a Monday qualifier like Harrington, finished with a flourish to put 20-under on the board.
Harrington was a 21-under and looked in control until his second shot from the heavy rough at sailed over the green at No. 17 and resulted in a bogey, dropping him into a tie with Wilson.
Wilson, in the group directly ahead, went at the green at the downhill, 542-yard, 18th with a hybrid. His ball bounced up against the grandstand and he chipped to 15 feet after taking a drop.
"I didn't know what was going on behind me," he said. "I figured I needed birdie."
Wilson's clutch putt was right in the heart for a bogey-free 67 and the clubhouse lead.
Harrington then hit a 4-iron to the middle of the green and two-putted for birdie to tie Wilson and extend the afternoon.
"I've known Chris a while and we're good friends," said Harrington, who exited the Evanston, Ill. Campus just as Wilson was arriving. "If I could be in a playoff with anybody in this field, it would be him."
Harringon and Wilson were side-by-side in the fairway at the reachable par-5 but Harrington's chances were dashed quickly when his 5-iron splashed into the water, well right of his intended target.
"I had the exact same yardage as I did in regulation but there wasn't any wind this time," he said. "I got a little quick and came out of it. It was probably the worst shot I hit all week."
Wilson focused on the center of the green but he pushed his 3-iron from 227 yards a bit.
"I knew I had a bunch of room over if I needed it. I was aiming at the middle of the green," he said. "I knew it was the right distance and was fortunate the wind didn't move it too much."
Wilson's shot went directly at the flag and stopped just in the fringe, about 12 feet away. When Harrington's 35-foot par putt slid past the cut, Wilson had three to win. He needed two, the final from only a few inches away.
Courtesy Web.com Tour media relations - Joe Chemycz