Just minutes ago here in the Phoenix Valley, where I live, Jeff Maggert won the season-ending Charles Schwab Championship at Phoenix Country Club in heroic fashion on the PGA Tour’s Champions Tour. He and Retief Goosen–a two-time U.S. Open champion from South Africa–tied in regulation play at 21 under par to force a sudden-death playoff that ended on the third extra hole.
Both Maggert and Goosen had been making some putts during their final round, with Maggert often leading by one stroke. But on the first extra hole, which they played on the reachable par-five 18th hole, both missed short birdie putts. Goosen missed second from only about two feet. They then played the second extra hole on the 18th hole again, and this time they both birdied it.
They then played the third extra hole on the short par-four 17th hole. It has a tight driving area with a fairway sand bunker on the right. Yet both players used a driver off the tee. Goosen drove first, and his ball went into the middle of the bunker. Maggert–who was a short but very straight driver in his history on the regular PGA Tour–drove perfectly, in the middle of the fairway with a 123 yard second shot to the green. The right side of the 17th green juts up right next to a lake, and the pin was located on the right side of the green.
Goosen played first and struck a brilliant second shot from the sand bunker onto the green to only about eight feet from the hole. He definitely was now in the driver’s seat.
But there was another golf show going on with this play, and Goosen was one of the two contenders in it. The Champions Tour has a year-long sponsor. It is the Charles Schwab Corporation, which is a huge bank and stock brokerage company. Therefore, this single tournament was one show, and the other show was the Charles Schwab Cup. Points are allotted throughout the year in the Charles Schwab Cup. Scot McCarron had been leading in points all year long. But he had faltered in the last three tournaments and Goosen had moved up in points. Thus, if Goosen won this playoff with Maggert, Goosen would win both the tournament and the Cup. But if Goosen lost the playoff to Maggert, McCarron would win the Cup after finishing fourth, third, and second in the Cup standings in previous years. So, there was a lot of drama going on in that playoff, with McCarron feeling on pins and needles in the clubhouse watching.
As Maggert swung his club on that shot, I was thinking of how I have often marveled at how he can swing the club back and down in the backswing on what appears to be the same exact plane. That is what many Tour players have striven to do in their careers. The great ball striker Ben Hogan made that idea famous with his first instructional book about the golf swing, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, which has many superb drawings of Hogan’s golf swing with an imaginary sheet of glass covering the plane of his swing. That’s how Hogan said he always imagined trying to the swing, and there may not have been anybody who ever has done it as well has him. However, Jeff Maggert might be close.
Anyway, Jeff hit his second shot on this third playoff hole. The ball landed a few feet short of the hole, right on line, took two short bounces, and hopped in the hole like a bunny rabbit. Everyone was stunned. The PGA Tour commentators, such as Lanny Wadkins and John Cook, said it was one of the greatest finishes in golf they had ever seen.
This was Jeff Maggert’s sixth win on the Champions Tour. And Scot McCarron was rejoicing in the clubhouse as he finally got to the top by winning the Cup. And it was fitting that Maggert won since he is a PING player and the PING corporation is located only a few miles away.
Incidentally, some of the tournaments on the Champions Tour have returned to venues that we used to play on the regular Tour forty and fifty years ago or more, and one of them is the Phoenix Country Club where the Phoenix Open used to be staged every year. I played that tournament there many times.