Jason Bohn had been sleeping with the lead of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans since Thursday night. On Sunday night – if he ever did fall asleep – the 37-year-old got to take the sterling silver champion’s trophy and an oversized check for $1.152 million to bed with him.
Bohn capped his wire-to-wire performance with a shot for the ages – a 148-yard pitching wedge that settled 7 inches behind the cup of the par-5 18th at TPC Louisiana. The Acworth, Ga., resident tapped in the birdie putt to finish off his 5-under-par 67 that gave him a two-shot victory over the gritty Jeff Overton, who fired a final-round 66.
Bohn played the 72 holes of the Zurich Classic in 18-under 270, the lowest winning score since the event moved to TPC Louisiana in 2005. He became the first wire-to-wire winner in New Orleans since Calvin Peete in 1986. He finished out his second tour win in fine fashion, making birdies on three of the final four holes.
“Unreal day for me today,” Bohn said as he met with media 30 minutes after his triumph, draped in beads, the trophy by his side.
Because of torrential rains that wiped out play Friday afternoon and put the tournament behind schedule, Bohn had to play 30 holes Sunday, all with Overton. The long-hitting 26-year-old from Indiana pushed Bohn to the limit. Starting the final round three shots back, he birdied three of the opening six holes to tie Bohn for the lead on No. 5.
“I was feeling the heat,” Bohn said. “I felt the heat the whole day.”
The temperature reached a boiling point on the closing 18th when Overton, trailing by two, reached the green in two, giving himself a chance to make an eagle putt and tie Bohn at 17 under.
Bohn, who had hit his second shot into the water twice on 18 earlier in the tournament, opted for the conservative play and laid up with his second shot just short of a bunker on the left side of the fairway.
“I’m thinking I hit it on there ,and I’m like, wow, this is no easy shot for him anyway coming in there downwind,” Overton said. “If he catches it just a little bit pure … he could easily knock it over. I’m sitting there thinking even if he hits it on there, hopefully I can roll this thing in there and really let the crowd have some fun and go play a playoff.”
Bohn would have none of it.
“I was playing to hit it about 15 feet short of the hole,” said Bohn, who won the 2005 B.C. Open for his first victory. “So for it to skip and end up right behind the hole, I mean, I don’t know. You dream about stuff like that. You hope you’ve got 4 inches to win a golf tournament vs. 4 feet.”
While that shot closed out the memorable duel between the two players, it was not the only pivotal moment. Bohn pointed to two other holes, the par-3 14th and the par-4 15th.
Overton had just tied Bohn for the lead at 15 under after making a birdie on the par-4 13th when both players hit their tee shots short and right of the 14th green. Bohn’s pitch slipped nearly 7 feet past the hole, leaving a tough putt for par, while Overton’s effort settled by the hole. But Bohn’s putt went straight in.
“The putt was huge for me,” he said. “The putt might have been the best putt I hit all week because I knew – I kind of knew the scenario. Once he didn’t chip it in, I knew he had tied the lead. If I miss this putt I give him the lead. And I stayed really committed there. I stayed down, and I really hit it solid.”
Overton said he saw Bohn make putts for two days.
“Other than the first hole yesterday I don’t think he missed a putt inside of 10 or 12 feet,” Overton said. “But he made everything, even 20-footers.”
On the 502-yard par-4 15th, Bohn’s drive left him with 210 yards to the hole. He hit a 6-iron to 5 feet and made the putt.
‘The shot that I hit into 15 – bar none – changed the dynamics of this golf tournament,” Bohn said. “No question.”
That birdie pushed Bohn to 16 under and gave him a one-shot lead. The 22-footer he made for birdie on No. 16 bumped him to 17 under and gave him a two-shot lead with two to play as Overton just missed his birdie putt from 15 feet.
“The final four holes there, he birdied two of the last four holes – three of the last four holes,” Overton said. “So we were all square going into the final four holes, and I let a couple of putts slide over the hole. ...Other than that, I mean, I played great. He played awesome.”
Pars by both players at the treacherous par-3 17th set the stage for theatrics on 18.
The closing hole on this Pete Dye course had provided problems for Bohn twice before in the tournament. In his first round he went for the green and his second shot found the water and he made bogey. In the third round he went for the green in two and again found the water. This time, however, he was able to save par. In the second round he laid up and made birdie.
“I’ll never attempt to hit this green in two again the rest of my career,” Bohn said.
While Bohn and Overton battled each other for most of the day, tour rookie Troy Merritt
briefly seized the lead after a sizzling stretch that saw him play five holes in 6 under to reach 15 under. But a bogey on No. 14 ended his chances, and he finished at 14-under 274, alone in third. It was by far Merritt’s best finish of his rookie season and earned him $435,200 from the purse of $6.4 million, quadrupling his earnings.
Veteran Lee Janzen’s second straight 3-under 69 put him at 12-under 275 and alone in fourth place, his best finish of the year and one shot ahead of Greg Chalmers, who also posted a 69 to finish fifth at 11-under 276.
Bohn’s victory ended a five-year winless stretch during which he battled back problems. This victory – and playing 54 holes in two days – showed Bohn he’s healthy and his game is back.
“Emotionally, this one is different,” Bohn said when asked to compare his two wins. “It’s impossible to say more special, but completely different special. I mean this one is really special to me because this one – I went through a lot of adversity for the last couple of years trying to grind with my game. You know, to come out on top is awesome. So this is one I’ll never forget.”
The victory comes with a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a spot in the Masters, the winners-only SBS Championship in Hawaii and some added confidence.
“To know that I’m a multiple winner on the PGA Tour has changed my life,” he said. “I mean there are so many things that I’m so excited about that are in my future. So my future is definitely brighter today.”
- Doug Tatum, The Times-Picayune