Four players with Oklahoma ties finish in top 20 in Tour opener

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GREAT EXUMA, Bahamas — Kyle Thompson took home his fifth career Tour title in paradise Wednesday at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay with his third consecutive round of 2-under 70. The 37-year-old finished as the runner-up at the Tour season opener a year ago in Panama, but edged out Andrew Yun and Nicholas Thompson by two shots this year with a 2-under 286 in the Tour’s first ever Sunday — Wednesday tournament format.

Four players with Oklahoma ties finished in the top 20. Former Sooner Abraham Ancer tied for fifth at 4-over par, former Sooner Michael Gellerman tied for eighth at 5 over, former Oklahoma State star Talor Gooch of Midwest City tied for 11th at 6 over and Taylor Moore of Edmond tied for 17th at 8 over. Gellerman, Gooch and Moore all earned their first Tour cards at qualifying school in December.

At a tournament where the 11-over 155 cutline was the highest in Tour history, patience was key, and Thompson showed plenty of it after battling back from being 6-over-par through his first six holes of the first round. Over his last 66 holes, the former South Carolina Gamecock finished in 8-under to secure his first victory since the 2015 Rex Hospital Open.

“[The first round] was just brutal. I can’t even describe how hard it was,” Thompson said. “Even today it was so hard. I felt like I was the guy in Caddyshack who is having the round of his life walking straight into the breeze. I never gave up. I didn’t quit even though I had a rough start. Turned it around. That was definitely one of the top three hardest rounds of my life, and I shot a score that kept me in the ball game. I just kept grinding and grinding.”

Entering the final round with a three-shot lead, Thompson cruised through the front nine with birdies at Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 9. He holed six-foot testers for par at both No. 10 and 11, and even made par at the par-4 12th, which played as the toughest hole in Tour history with a scoring average of 5.008.

“I made a lot of great putts. The putt on 11 was big,” Thompson said. “The second shot on 12 was the shot of my tournament, hitting 5-wood from 182 yards. That’s insane. I just played solid from there coming in.”

His first blemish of the day didn’t come until the par-4 16th, when he yanked a 3-wood into the rocks left of the fairway alongside the sea. That wayward tee ball resulted in a double bogey, shrunk his lead to just two shots and brought Yun and Nicholas Thompson back into the picture.

“The one swing I wish I could take back, the 3-wood on 16, but everybody is going to have a hiccup,” Thompson said. “When I hit it, all you can do is laugh and just go ‘Alright, lets rebound and move on and see what we can do.’”

Yun entered the day three back of Thompson and gave him a run with a 3-under 69 for his best finish ever on the Tour. The former Stanford Cardinal finished 50th on the money list as a rookie in 2015 but struggled a year ago and finished 100th. As a result, Yun had to return to the final stage of the Tour’s Qualifying Tournament in December, where he earned a return to the Tour with a T32 finish to earn entry into this week.

* This week’s purse is $600,000, with $108,000 going to Kyle Thompson. Thompson leads the money list after finishing 42nd a year ago. In the previous three seasons in which Thompson recorded a victory on the Tour, he emerged with one of the 25 PGA TOUR cards in two of them. In 2016, only three players that won a tournament didn’t go on to earn their PGA TOUR card.

* Among Thompson’s five career wins, three came at the Rex Hospital Open (2007, 2011, 2015). His other win came at the 2007 Oregon Classic. Thompson is the only player in Tour history to win one event three times.

* The par-4 12th played as the toughest hole in Tour history with a scoring average of 5.008 for the week. The most difficult hole in Tour history previously was the par-4 second at Hombre Golf Club, which played to an average of 4.921 (+0.921) during the 1991 Ben Hogan Panama City Beach Classic. The toughest hole on Tour in 2016 was the par-4 14th at Victoria National Golf Club, which played to a 4.413 average.

* In his first start as a rookie on the Tour, Canada’s Corey Conners posted his first top-five on Tour with a T5 finish after rounds of 79-70-70-73–292 (+4). The 2014 U.S. Amateur runner-up eagled the first hole Wednesday to get within one shot of Thompson, but posted bogeys on four of his last 13 holes.

* Sam Saunders posted the round of the day on Wednesday — 5-under 67 — to climb into T8, his first top-10 on the Tour since 2015.

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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source

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