No matter how strong the Urban Legend might be, when it comes time to win on the PGA Tour for the first time — you’re going to be tested.
Cameron Champ was tested in a big way Sunday in Mississippi and he showed he has the right stuff to be a PGA Tour winner.
Champ entered the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship with a fat four-shot lead over Corey Conners with a hopeful walk in the park around the Country Club of Jackson.
Didn’t turn out that way.
By the ninth hole, Champ was showing those rookie nerves. A one-over par effort chewed up every one of those four shots and he was dead-even at 16-under with playing partner Conners.
Champ parred the 10th then blew what should have been an easy birdie at the par five 12th when he chunked a chip shot from just off the green that didn’t even make it to the green. He tied Conners with par then made another at the 12th. Champ, who broke Bubba Watson’s Web.com tour record for driving distance last year, was being test, tested hard.
Then it was if a light came on. Champ made birdie a the short, 147-yard 13th from inside 10 feet then made another from seven feet at the par five 14th. At the driveable 15th, his three-wood left him an awkward 48-yard shot that he nestled to a couple of feet for a third straight birdie. At the 16th launched another massive drive but pulled his wedge approach badly, leaving himself 38 feet from the hole. Didn’t matter, he made that bomb for birdie and put two shots between him and Conners in their two-man battle.
Champ made a great par save at the 17th then made an incredible closing birdie at 18 from the left rough where he punched a perfect, low-draw six-iron that found the green and eventually stopped just six feet from the hole, ending any hopes for Conners.
That final birdie got champ to 21-under par, finishing the day where he started — four clear of Conners.
The victory announced Champ’s intent to challenge everyone this season. He already has the distance — he may be 20-yards longer than Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. He’s not that big, just six-feet tall and around 180 pounds. But he has spring-loaded lag in his swing that produces enormous distance off the tee.
“It means everything, all the hard work over the years, it’s just unreal,” Champ said after holing his final birdie. “Today was a new experience. The front nine was a lot of nerves.”
The back nine was a display of distance and putting, a lethal combination.