HUMBLE, Texas — Six feet away from his first PGA Tour victory, Lanto Griffin never felt calmer.
It was only after his par putt fell into the middle of the cup Sunday in the Houston Open that the 31-year-old Griffin struggle to contain so many emotions.
He describes his parents as hippies and his childhood as flush with fun and love, short on cash. His father, who bought him a starter set of clubs even though no one in the family ever played golf, died when Griffin was 12. A local pro in Virginia, Steve Prater, gave him an honorary membership when Griffin’s father died and continues as a coach and mentor.
“This is going to be a week that I’ll never, never forget — regardless what happens the rest of my career,” Griffin said. “I feel very fortunate beyond words.”
Locked in a tight race on the back nine, Griffin took the lead with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, and then won with that 6-footer for par, which gave him a 3-under 69 and a one-shot victory over Mark Hubbard and Scott Harrington.
The victory sends Griffin to the Masters and the PGA Championship, gives him a two-year exemption and forces him to come up with a fresh set of goals for the rest of the year. Except for statistics that take a season to complete, he ticked off most of them in Houston.
He played in a final group.
He wanted to play in two majors.
“I’ll check whatever I have off there and re-evaluate after this week,” Griffin said.
Griffin finished at 14-under 274 and moved to the top of the FedEx Cup as the PGA Tour heads to Asia for three weeks of big purses and limited fields with no cuts.
But first, a celebration that Griffin feels was a long time coming.
His phone showed 447 text messages, and Griffin planned to get to all of them. He looked again, it was at 457.
Wiesberger closes strong to claim Italian Open title: ROME — Bernd Wiesberger closed with a 6-under 65 to win the Italian Open and move atop the Race to Dubai standings on the European Tour.
Wiesberger rallied from three shots behind Matt Fitzpatrick at Olgiata Golf Club. Fitzpatrick had chances to force a playoff but narrowly missed an eagle putt on the 17th and a birdie putt on the 18th hole. He shot a 69.
Wiesberger, who finished at 16-under 268, won for the third time this year on the European Tour following victories at Made in Denmark and the Scottish Open.
“I’ve played really well in the right events,” said Wiesberger, who finished 16 under overall. “Just really excited what’s ahead of us in the last few events.”
Kelly ekes out victory at SAS Championship: CARY, N.C. — Jerry Kelly closed with a 7-under 65 and won the SAS Championship, allowing him to close the gap in the Charles Schwab Cup as the PGA Tour Champions heads into its postseason.
Kelly ran off five straight birdies on the front nine at Prestonwood Country Club to take control. He closed with a bogey for a one-shot victory over David McKenzie, who shot 63.
Woody Austin and Doug Barron, who shared the lead going into the final round, each shot 71 and tied for third with David Toms (66).