THE WOODLANDS, TX (May 15, 2008) – The drama of three days of golf unfolded on the 17th and 18th holes today before a large crowd of fellow competitors and spectators as Andy Cooper won his 2nd Carlton Woods Invitational in a sudden death playoff over Robby McWilliams.
There was plenty of drama throughout the day, as Jamie Held, who played a nearly flawless round of golf, capitalized on two Robby McWilliams bogeys on the 1st and 2nd holes by playing them one-under to move into a first place tie early in the round. From there is was back and forth with Held shooting two-under on the front and McWilliams taking a one shot lead into the 10th hole.
McWilliams stumbled by making double bogey on 10, 11, and 12. During that same stretch, Held played 10, 11, and 12 one over to build a four-stroke lead at one point. Meanwhile in the group ahead, Andy Cooper, who also started the day at three over par, stayed close to the leaders by making few mistakes and by making nothing worse than a bogey. Held took a four-stroke lead over McWilliams and a three-shot lead over Cooper going into the 16th hole.
Cooper knocked it stiff on the 16th hole to make birdie and to pull within two strokes of the lead. From there, Cooper bogeyed the 17th hole but made a miraculous flop shot to get up and down on the 18th for a tap in birdie. He posted a one over par 71 and finished the tournament at 220.
Held teed off on the 17th with a two-stroke lead over Cooper but he landed in the water. After taking a drop and hitting his approach shot, Held struggled and ended up taking a devastating triple bogey six on the par three while McWilliams made par on the. On the 18th tee, McWilliams and Held both trailing by one needed to make birdie in order to force a sudden death playoff with Cooper. Held’s approach shot was a little too far left and caught the ridge and rolled about 35 feet left of the flag. He two putted from there to make par.
Meanwhile, McWilliams’ second shot landed right of the green. McWilliams made an incredible shot over a deep bunker in front of a large gallery to end up within six feet of the pin. He drained the putt to shoot 76 and tied Cooper at 220.
On the first hole of sudden death playoff, both Cooper and McWilliams went for the par 5 in two. McWilliams played first and his ball landed long in the collection area behind number 18. Cooper’s approach shot ended up right in the greenside bunker. McWilliams chipped to within 15 feet but missed his birdie. Cooper’s sand shot landed within six feet and he made the putt for the win.
“I really was not expecting to win. I thought I was playing for 2nd place,” said Cooper. “It’s pretty special to have the opportunity to be here and to win this again – especially here in front of all of your friends. I feel pretty bad for Jamie. He’s a good friend. We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well and played a lot of golf together. My heart goes out to him.”
John Grace, however, was playing to win. He started and ended the day with a six shot lead over the Senior Division field. He drew upon his experience from 34 appearances in USGA events to handily defeat Eddie Lyons of Shreveport, LA who shot two-under to finish at 221 for the tournament.
Grace’s 215 score was good enough to tie the Senior Division tournament record established last year by Bob Hullender. John Grace knows that anything can happen on the Nicklaus golf course against strong competitors like Mike Rice and Eddie Lyons. It tightened up right out of the gate with Grace making bogies on the 2nd and 3rd holes. Rice played those same holes even par to pull within four strokes but Grace regained the breathing room he needed when Rice missed a birdie putt on the 5th hole and then bogeyed the 6th and 7th. Rice came right back on the 8th hole hitting his second shot to within six feet. When Grace missed his birdie putt, Rice calmly rolled in his eagle putt.
With four strokes to make up, Rice made a critical mistake ending up in the water on the 9th hole and taking a double bogey while Grace continued to make pars. Heading into the back nine with the same six shot lead where he started the day, Grace played the final nine even par and Rice never made another run.
“On this golf course the competition is always tight," said Grace. "I never felt good until the very last putt.You can make a triple bogey in a split second.
“I really hit the ball well today. I hit every fairway and that made a big difference."