PGA Tour
Garrigus wins tense PGA finale at Disney



Lake Buena Vista, FL (Sports Network) - Robert Garrigus captured his first PGA Tour win Sunday in a pressure-packed season finale at the Children's Miracle Network Classic.

Garrigus came from five shots back with an eight-under 64 to comfortably beat third-round leader Roland Thatcher by three strokes.

The drama, it turned out, happened behind him on the leaderboard.

Fighting for his spot on tour, Thatcher made a five-foot par putt at the 18th hole to lock up his playing privileges for next season. Spencer Levin helped him by making a bogey on the same hole, giving Thatcher the solo runner-up finish he needed to remain in the top 125 on the money list.

The other big winner? Troy Merritt, who earned the last tour card at No. 125 on the money list, then beat Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley in a playoff to capture $1 million as the winner of the season-long Kodak Challenge.

Garrigus finished at 21-under 267 and earned some redemption for his epic collapse on the last hole of the St. Jude Classic in June. He had eight birdies in flawless final round at Disney's Magnolia course.

Thatcher made it harder on himself than it had to be. After taking a four-shot lead into the round, he battled to remain in second place as Garrigus pulled ahead. Thatcher made back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes, falling into a tie for second place with Levin.

The first bogey came when he missed a simple three-footer at the 16th hole moments after the roar from Garrigus' go-ahead birdie at the 17th.

Playing tight, he pull-hooked his approach 60 feet left and into a bunker at the 17th and missed an eight-footer.

But the closing par -- set up by a lag putt from 42 feet that left him with the knee-knocker coming back -- gave Thatcher a 72 that was enough for second place at 18-under 270.

"I couldn't imagine having a more stressful moment in my life, up to this point. So to be able to come out on the other side of that, on the good side of it is just amazing for me," said Thatcher.

"Somehow I got my hands to stop shaking enough to make a stroke and get it to go in."

Levin made a 34-foot birdie putt at No. 17 to tie Thatcher in second, but bogeyed the last hole after lagging a 45-footer to only 12 feet. He had a 68 and shared third place with Fowler (66) and Johnson Wagner (67) at 17-under 271, keeping his tour card at No. 74 on the money list.

Wagner didn't keep his card -- he was the last man out at 126th on the money list. He looked OK to move into the top 125 until a double-bogey at the 16th hole.

Merritt closed with a 67 to tie for 30th place and keep his card for 2010. He nearly holed his approach shot in the Kodak Challenge playoff, knocking it to about 15 inches at the par-four 17th to set up a winning birdie.

The winner-take-all $1 million competition is held over selected holes throughout the season.

Garrigus' victory was worth less in terms of money -- he earned $846,000 -- but it came with a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

"Today was putting, hitting it long, hitting it straight -- it was everything today. It was awesome," said Garrigus.

He was able to end the season on a high note after being remembered mostly for his meltdown at the St. Jude.

Garrigus carried a three-shot lead to the final hole in Memphis, but hit a pond and a tree and walked off with a triple-bogey to force a three-way playoff that was won by Lee Westwood.

Referring to the loss as a "stepping stone," Garrigus said he was happy it happened. He was happier to have bounced back to win the last event of the season.

"It feels great to be able to close this one off and figuratively shut everybody up about Memphis," Garrigus said. "Every time I got an interview it was about Memphis, but it really helped me just to realize that it's not that big a deal."

Garrigus had seven birdies in his first 13 holes Sunday, including two from 15 feet, but didn't take the lead until he drained an 18-footer at the 17th. The birdie elicited a fist pump from the American and a hearty cheer that could certainly be heard by Thatcher back at the 16th.

Taking deep breaths to steady himself, Thatcher still missed his three-footer for par, knocking him out of the top 125 until his par at the last.

NOTES: Thatcher, who entered the tournament 179th on the money list, led by as many as six shots in Saturday's third round...The 2011 season will begin Jan. 6 in Hawaii at the SBS Championship, which is reserved for the previous year's winners. Garrigus earned a spot in the event, which was won by Geoff Ogilvy the last two years.

11/14 18:01:08 ET