Maui Sports

Road to Kapalua: Fowler, Kirk, Bowditch, Lingmerth and Gomez

December 21, 2015, 2:00 PM HST
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Hyundai Tournament of Champions. 2012 File photo by Wendy Osher.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions. File photo by Wendy Osher.

With the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a little over two weeks away, tournament officials are gearing up by highlighting each of the qualifiers for the winners-only event.

The tournament takes place on The Plantation Course at Kapalua from Jan. 6-10, 2016.

In this installment, 2015 victories are highlighted for players: Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Steven Bowditch, David Lingmerth and Fabian Gomez.

Rickie Fowler – 2nd Appearance (Best Finish: T6, 2013)
After going winless for two years on TOUR, Rickie Fowler was adamant on proving he belonged as one of the top players in the game as the calendar turned to 2015. Fowler did just that by putting on a show in the final round at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass to win THE PLAYERS Championship on the road to Kapalua. In regulation, Fowler played the final four holes in 5-under, a tournament record, to join the first ever three-hole aggregate playoff with Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia. Fowler remained tied with Kisner after the three-hole stretch, and won on the second sudden-death playoff hole with a birdie on the par-3 17th, his third of the day on the hole and fifth of the week.

“Well, you know, I was always looked at as only having one win on TOUR, and I always felt that I needed to put myself in position to win more often, and I did that last year,” Fowler said following his victory. “I wasn’t able to end up as the last guy standing. It feels good to be back in that position, and I’m hoping to be back in the same position more often.”

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He added another quality win to his resume four months later in Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four FedExCup Playoffs events. A final-round 68 was enough to hold off 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson for third career PGA TOUR victory and second of the season. He went on to finish fourth in the final FedExCup standings.

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Chris Kirk – 4th Appearance (Best Finish: T7, 2012)
This is the third consecutive year Chris Kirk won on the road to Kapalua, capturing the 2015 Colonial National Invitation Tournament. Kirk began the final round three shots behind leader Kevin Na, but an eagle on the par-5 first hole immediately trimmed the deficit to one. The University of Georgia product added two more birdies on the back nine and made a clutch 7-foot par putt on the final hole to secure the victory over hometown favorite Jordan Spieth, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Bohn.

Kirk has quietly produced a respectable career on the PGA TOUR, amassing four victories over five seasons against some of the best fields in golf. But the victory at Ben Hogan’s place was even more special for Kirk as a former Ben Hogan Award winner while at Georgia.

Steven Bowditch – 2nd Appearance (Best Finish: T22, 2015)
Steven Bowditch captured the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson for his second-career PGA TOUR victory (2014 Valero Texas Open) in record-setting fashion, finishing with a tournament record 18-under 259 total on the road to Kapalua. The Australian native opened with an 8-under 62 and never looked back, holding a least a share of the lead after each round at TPC Four Seasons Resort, which was the site of his wedding in 2011.

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Bowditch finished four strokes ahead of Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker and Scott Pinckney to become the ninth international winner at the AT&T Byron Nelson since 2000 and punch his ticket to Kapalua for the second year in a row. His win snapped a streak of three cuts at the event, and he also secured victory for the second time in as many attempts when carrying the lead into the final round on the PGA TOUR.

David Lingmerth – First Appearance
Ahead of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, David Lingmerth’s game did not seem to be trending in the right direction. He had just missed four of five cuts and had yet to collect a top-10 finish on the season. But the 28-year-old Swede opened with rounds of 67-65 at Muirfield Village GC to grab the 36-hole lead.

“It’s one thing to be a PGA Tour player, and it’s a whole another thing to be a winner out here,” Lingmerth said after his win. “And just to be on that list of PGA Tour winners is a special feeling and something that no one can take away from me.”

An even-par 72 in the third round dropped him three shots back of 2010 champion Justin Rose, but he rebounded with a 69 in the final round to meet Rose in a sudden-death playoff. Lingmerth sank a 6-foot par putt on the third extra hole to win his first career PGA TOUR victory in his 68th start and earn the traditional handshake and congratulations from tournament host Jack Nicklaus.

Fabian Gomez – First Appearance
One year removed from heading back to the Web.com Tour to earn his PGA TOUR card, Fabian Gomez found himself in the final group at the FedEx St. Jude Classic tied with England’s Greg Owen after three rounds. The last time he held a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA TOUR, he finished tied for second with Jordan Spieth at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open.

But this was Gomez’s day, as the native Argentinian carded a 4-under 66 to win by four strokes for his first career PGA TOUR victory to qualify for his first Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The win made him the fifth player from Argentina to win on the PGA TOUR, joining fellow countrymen Roberto Di Vicenzo, Angel Cabrera, Jose Coceres and Andres Romero.

“For me it’s like a dream come true,” Gomez said. “Winning on the PGA TOUR is really tough. You have many great players, and winning here with so many players is amazing.”

All ticket options are available at the PGA Tour website for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions Official Pro-Am guarantees that participants will be paired with a tournament winner. Interested individuals can contact Nancy Cross at (808) 665-9160 or [email protected]

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