HONOLULU (AP)—The mustache is here to stay. Johnson Wagner hopes the samecan be said of his golf game.
Wagner usually doesn’t start a new PGA Tour with great expectations, onlythis year was different. For starters, he was expecting to catch plenty of grieffor the mustache he grew on a whim over Thanksgiving, and he was right.
“I probably got `Magnum P.I.’ in Maui a hundred times,” Wagner said. “AndI had never really watched the show. So I Googled images of Tom Selleck and Itook it as a compliment. Tom Selleck is a stud.”
Wagner also was expecting to win early in the year, based on how hard heworked in the offseason and his unusual confidence level.
Trailing by two shots going into the final round, Wagner played bogey-freeover the final 12 holes and closed with a 3-under 67 on Sunday to win the SonyOpen for only his third PGA Tour title.
The perks were immediate.
Wagner crossed off one of his goals by earning an invitation to the Masters,and this time he can enjoy it. The only other time he played Augusta Nationalwas in 2008, and he got in by winning the week before at the Houston Open.
He also gets to book a return to Hawaii next year for a two-week workingvacation, starting with the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. His other goalsof getting into the top 50, getting into more majors, will take more work.
But what a start.
“I’ve worked very hard this offseason, and it’s just really nice to see itpay off so early,” Wagner said.
Six players had at least a share of the lead in the final round, yet thefinal few holes lacked much drama. Wagner took the lead for good with a birdiefrom the greenside bunker on the short par-4 10th. He didn’t make any mistakes,and no one else made enough birdies in what turned out to be a winning recipe.
Harrison Frazar took the outright lead with a birdie on No. 10, but had tosettle for pars the rest of the way for a 67. Charles Howell III was paired withWagner and stayed with him until a three-putt par on the par-5 ninth. He birdiedthe last hole for a 69. Sean O’Hair narrowly missed a 30-foot eagle putt on thelast hole and shot 67, while Carl Pettersson overcame a double bogey on hissecond hole with four birdies on the last six holes for a 67.
They all tied for second.
“My first top-10 as an American,” said Pettersson, the Swede who became aU.S. citizen during the offseason.
Wagner got some help.
He started the final round two shots behind Jeff Maggert and Matt Every ,both of whom fell apart early. Maggert made two big par putts to start hisround, but he put too much pressure on himself around the greens and it finallycaught up with the 47-year-old when he started missing short putts. He shot 74.
Every ended a trying week, which began with him bumbling his way through twointerviews over his PGA Tour suspension stemming from his arrest on amisdemeanor marijuana charge during his rookie season.
By Saturday evening, with a share of the lead, he said that “I’m just readyto get it over with.”
His chances of winning were over quickly. He made bogeys on the opening fourholes by failing to get up-and-down from a bunker on No. 1, driving into thewater on No. 2 and three-putting on No. 4. But even after a three-putt from 4feet on No. 6 for double bogey, he was still in the hunt, along with so manyothers.
Wagner looked up at the leaderboard next to the ninth green and saw that theleaders coming back to the field, and that raised his hopes immediately. He madebirdie from the bunker on the ninth, made birdie from the bunker on the nexthole and then effectively put the tournament away with a 15-foot birdie puttfrom the fringe on No. 15, and a tee shot into the wind on the 16th that avoidedtrouble.
“He played fantastic, right down the stretch,” Howell said, who playedalongside Wagner. “He hit a really good drive up 16, which he needed to hit.And then his shot on 17 to the middle of the green to make 3 there. That was thelast place I think he could have lost it. He played 18 with 5 to win. That mustbe a pretty good feeling, I don’t know. I’ve heard it is.”
It was the second time Howell has been runner-up in the Sony Open, and the13th time in his career. Frazar also was a runner-up for the second time atWaialae, having lost in a playoff to Ernie Els in 2004.
Now, Wagner is hopeful of a big year.
Somewhere in the offseason, when he was working out three times a week,flying to Florida to meet with his swing coach, and jotting down notes about hisattitude and his goals, he decided not to settle for mediocrity.
He was confident enough to tell family and friends to expect a win early inthe season. And it was a message he shared with Johnny Harris, who runs QuailHollow where Wagner often plays.
Before leaving for Kapalua, Wagner said he told him, “If I get into theMasters, are you going to sponsor my brother and I in a foursome down there fora couple of days?”
Those who qualify for the Masters can play the course with members beforethe tournament.
“He was like, `You go do it and I’ve got you, podner,”’ Wagner said. “SoI’ll be going down to Augusta a few times.”
And that mustache is going with him.
“Kind of made a deal with myself in December that if I was to get into theMasters, then I was going to keep the mustache for at least this year,” hesaid. “Everybody said, `Oh, is it a November mustache? Well, it’s December,time to shave it.’ I said, Look, this is not a one-month mustache. This ispotentially a 10-year mustache.’
“So I think it’s going to be around for a while.”