Oppenheim Wins Playoff in Austin

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Canadian Tour-LargeAUSTIN, Texas -- A bad break for Jim Rutledge opened the door for Rob Oppenheim to win his first Canadian Tour title Sunday at the season-opener in Austin, Tex.

The 26-year-old from Andover, Mass. converted a 25-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to win a four-man playoff at the Yes! Golf Barton Creek Classic presented by BG Products.

Oppenheim, Rutledge, Omar Uresti and overnight leader Craig Kanada each finished with a four-day total of 11-under 271.

One week after winning the Nationwide Tours ING New Zealand Championship, Rutledge, from Victoria, BC, posted a final-round 68, the same score put up by Oppenheim. Both players began the final day four shots back of Kanada.

In a matter of seconds Sunday afternoon, both Rutledge and Oppenheim missed ideal opportunities to win the event in regulation.

Nursing a two-shot lead with just two holes to go, Rutledge double-bogeyed the par-3 17th to come back to his closest pursuers. Up ahead on the 18th green, the leaderboard was being changed as Oppenheim stood over a 4-foot birdie putt. With Rutledges misfortune now up on the board, Oppenheim had a chance to jump ahead but missed the short attempt.

Three birdies over his final four holes, including a tricky 20-foot slider on the par-3 17th, gave Oppenheim a chance.

After signing his scorecard, the former Massachusetts amateur champion waited to see if his number would be enough to force extra holes.

After what Rut did on 17, I think it was a pretty lucky break just to get into the playoff, said Oppenheim. Its a funny game, but thats golf.

The foursome moved back to the par-4 18th tee to begin the playoff and all four found the green in two. After Uresti and Kanada missed long birdie putts, Oppenheim made a clutch 25-footer. Rutledge then stepped up and just missed a putt from 20 feet that would have extended the playoff.

On the final few holes, I was just looking to improve my standing', admitted the new champion. 'Winning the golf tournament never really crossed my mind.'

For Rutledge, it was a tough end in his bid to win twice in a week on two different continents. Turning for home at 1-under, the six-time Tour champion added three birdies and an eagle on the inbound nine to climb into top spot.

On 17, the turning point of the day, Rutledges tee shot seemed to be safe, hitting the back fringe. But the ball rolled back across the putting surface, almost hitting the pin before dropping into a hazard in front of the green.

I honestly hit a good shot there, said Rutledge. I caught a bad break on a difficult little hole. The guy in front of me hit the exact same shot and was fine.

Its too bad. I really wanted this one. I clawed my way back, but came up just short.

During the winter, Oppenheim lost a pair of mini tour playoffs in Florida, something he admits was on his mind as overtime loomed Sunday. But Oppenheims father, Jim, who also served as his caddie this week, had some basic rallying words for his son.

My dad told me Its about time you win one of these things, he said with a smile.

Ive been in contention a few times, and I knew I could win out here, added Oppenheim, who had a Tour-best third-place result last summer at the Montreal Open. To get a win under my belt this early in the year feels good. It was a great field out here this week, and to come out on top is special.

The Canadian Tour will remain at Barton Creek for this weeks Yes! Golf Barton Creek Challenge presented by BG Products, which gets underway Thursday.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Barton Creek Classic
  • Full Coverage - Barton Creek Classic