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Langham secures wire-to-wire win

Franklin LanghamFranklin Langham has played seven full seasons on the PGA Tour, but at 39 he's been wondering if he'll ever get back there, even to the point of considering a career change.  However, thanks to his two-shot victory Sunday at the Utah EnergySLolutions Championship at Willow Creek Country Club, Langham may get another shot to play with the big boys.

With his $90,000 first-place check, Langham vaulted from 37th on the Nationwide Tour money list to No. 20. If he can stay in the top 25 on the money list through the end of next month, Langham will earn his PGA Tour card again.

"Winning is never easy — it's not supposed to be — but it sure feels good to pull it off," Langham told the appreciative crowd on the 18th green as he stood with his wife, Ashley by his side.

Langham completed his wire-to-wire win, defeating Richard Johnson by two shots with a final-round 68 for a 264 total. He overcame a two-shot penalty for hitting out of bounds on his first shot of the day with some clutch putting down the stretch.

The Georgia native ranked No. 1 for the week in putting with an average of 27 putts per round. He broke away from a duel with Johnson by sinking birdie putts of 10 and 30 feet at holes 14 and 16, respectively, which proved to be the difference.

"It was a little balky today, but the putts I made at 14 and 16 were just clutch," he said.

Langham was horrified to see his drive at the par-5 first hole go out of bounds, but he didn't let the errant drive spoil his day.

"After that drive it was damage control," he said. "I had to regroup and go from there."

Johnson made an eagle on the first hole, his fourth of the week, and just like that, the native of Wales had overcome the two-shot deficit and led by one.

Eventually, Langham and Johnson, playing in the final twosome, turned the tournament into a match-play final, more or less. When Johnson birdied 10 and 12 to move to 18-under, the two golfers were tied, two strokes ahead of the field.

The turning point came at the 387-yard par-4 14th hole, where Langham hit his wedge within 10 feet, while Johnson stuck his wedge to five feet.

It looked like advantage Johnson, but Langham rolled his uphill putt with a six-inch break into the center of the cup. Johnson's putt from half as far, slid by the top side, giving Langham a lead he'd never relinquish.

"I knew it was a big one," Langham said. "I hadn't made one that length today, and I needed to make it to put some pressure on him. Honestly I was surprised he missed his. I was counting on him making his and that was kind of a bonus."

"I read the putt inside left," Johnson said. "The green sloped that way, but the mountain goes the other way, and we went with the mountain range. I actually hit a good putt, it just didn't go in."

At 16, Johnson was inside Langham again and he thought he made his 20-footer from above the hole. However, Langham's 30-footer from below the hole, circled the hole before dropping for a birdie and a two-shot lead.

That putt became critical when Langham hit his drive at the par-5 17th into the trees and actually hit a volunteer, preventing the ball from perhaps getting through for a clear shot. Instead, Langham had to punch out and he hit a marvelous third shot from 215 yards that hit the green and allowed him to make par.

Johnson birdied 17 to cut the lead to one, leaving some drama for the boisterous crowd around the 198-yard finishing hole.

Langham hit safely to the back of the green 75 feet away, while Johnson was about 40 feet above the hole. The two would have tied if Langham had three-putted or if Johnson sank his putt and Langham two-putted.

After Langham nestled his long putt within two feet ("That was as good as any putt I hit all week"), Johnson needed a sink to tie. However his putt slid by the hole, and his miss coming back from five feet was meaningless as he still finished second by himself.

With a $54,000 second-place paycheck, Johnson moved into the top 25 at No. 11 and is in good shape to get his PGA card also.

Edward Loar and PGA Tour veteran Mark Hensby tied for third at 267, while Chris Tidland, Fabian Gomez and Ron Whittaker tied for fifth at 268.

By winning, Langham joins a select group of winners of the tourney, that includes the likes of John Daly, Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich and Arron Oberholser.

While he said, "it's nice to be in good company" and "hopefully it rubs off on me," Langham knows he has a long way to go with eight tournaments left on the schedule.

"I know how fickle this game is," he said. "It's nice to be taking a sword to a swordfight and not a knife. I kind of felt like I was fighting with a knife through the first part of this year. But now my game is where I want it to be. I've got a chance and that's all I ask for."

Among the local golfers, Farmington's Daniel Summerhays saved his best round of the week for last, recording a 5-under-par 66 to finish in a tie for 30th at 274. He earned $2,950 in making his fifth cut in six Nationwide events.

Bountiful's Garrett Clegg tied for 40th place after a final-round 68 gave him a 276 total, good for $1,879, while Layton's Barry Schenk shot a final-round 74 to finish in 65th place at 284.

 


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Article Courtesy of The Deseret Morning News