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Garrigus gains redemption with Disney victory

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ChildrenLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Robert Garrigus shot an 8-under 64 to win the Children’s Miracle Network Classic on Sunday, allowing him to keep his PGA Tour card and atoning for his colossal collapse earlier this year at Memphis.

Garrigus finished three shots clear of Roland Thatcher for his first tour victory.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said simply.

Garrigus began the week 122nd in earnings and needed a solid finish to stay inside the top 125 – the cutoff for full PGA Tour status. Thatcher shot a final-round 70 and jumped from 179th to 122nd to keep his playing privileges, blowing a four-stroke lead but keeping his job.

The victory was sweet redemption for Garrigus.

He made triple-bogey with a three-shot lead on the final hole at Memphis, allowing Lee Westwood to win his only event this year – a win that allowed him to earn the No. 1 ranking.

The anxiety was on dozens of others to keep their cards, but no more than at the top.

Garrigus began the final round five strokes behind Thatcher – who led everyone by at least four – and put pressure on a player who needed an even stronger finish. Thatcher had to have at least a solo second place or he was heading to qualifying school next week.

That won’t be necessary for either of them now.

Thatcher imploded with three bogeys on the back nine, including back-to-back at 16 and 17, when he badly misread putts. But he saved his card with a pressure-packed par putt from 5-feet on No. 18, barely pumping his fist while taking a huge sigh in relief.

“You’ll never see a happier guy who just vomited away a tournament,” Thatcher said.

Garrigus can relate.

In Memphis earlier this year, he knocked his tee shot into the woods, then hit one off a tree and eventually settled for triple-bogey. Then he bogeyed the first playoff hole.

It was a similar scenario this time around.

Garrigus had a two-stroke lead before he teed off on 18, but the shot found a patch of rough far left. Fortunately, the ball kicked back right, rolled onto the fringe and eventually had an easier approach to save par.

Thatcher joined Mark Wilson (123) and Michael Connell (115) as the only players this week to jump inside the top 125 after starting the week outside of it.

Meanwhile, Troy Merritt defeated Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley in a playoff to win the $1 million Kodak Challenge.