It’s fair to say we don’t know what to expect at this week’s U.S. Open. Chambers Bay will make its Major Championship debut as will Fox. The state of Washington hosts its first major since 1998 as well. The links course in the Pacific Northwest has players grumbling and fans anticipating the tournament with curiosity.
Appropriately, the last PGA Tour event prior to the U.S. Open produced a shock winner, although perhaps shock should be used lightly in consideration of last night’s Game of Thrones season finale. Fabian Gomez, a 36-year-old Argentine, won the FedEx St. Jude Classic by four strokes over Greg Owen. Gomez shot a 4-under, 66 on Sunday to cap a -13 week in Memphis for his first career PGA victory.
How big was the win for Gomez? His winner’s check of just more than $1 million surpassed his entire earnings on Tour prior to 2015. In the last six years, Gomez has played events on the Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Canada and the Latinoamerica PGA Tour. He’s won four tournaments combined across those circuits.
And it’s not this Fabian Gomez…
The 2015 season is proving to be Gomez’s best in his 13-year professional career. Four top 25’s, two top-10’s and the St. Jude Classic victory has him firmly in the FedEx Cup chase at 36th place.
His aggressiveness down the stretch at TPC Southwind reflected a confident player. As Owen, who held a one-shot lead over Gomez through eight, surrendered the lead (we won’t say collapsed…), Gomez surged.
The veteran Englishman (Owen) watched his closest competitor birdie the par-3 11th to take the lead. Then on the 12th tee, Owen drove his ball into the water. He took his frustrations out on his three-wood, which broke when he slammed it into the ground. The moment epitomized the frustrations of a player who has yet to win in 212 PGA Tour starts.
At 43, Owen will likely never have a better chance.
His follies opened the door for Gomez who gladly walked through. He parred the 12th then put an emphatic stamp on the victory with birdies on 16 and 18 in a bogey-free back nine.
Given its proximity to the U.S. Open, the St. Jude Classic usually features a hit or miss field. Such was the case this weekend, although a few Chambers Bay hopefuls played well. For a while, 25-year-old Brooks Koepka, a top-10 finisher at Pinehurst a year ago, looked like he would snag his second win of 2015. Instead, he found trouble on Sunday and sputtered to an -8 close after a 64-67 start to his tournament.
Then there’s Phil Mickelson, who set himself up for another run at the elusive U.S. Open with eight birdies in a final round 65. He was always going to be part of the conversation in Chambers Bay, but a 25-foot putt that swirled around the cup on 18 ensured that he will be the conversation.
In the end, though, the tournament, and the moment, belongs to Gomez. He won’t be in the field in Washington—Angel Cabrera will represent Argentina thanks to his 2007 U.S. Open championship.
Still, Gomez provided golf with some good vibes and a happy ending, two things the USGA can’t, and surely won’t, guarantee this week.