FORT WAYNE – It looked all too familiar, seeing Trevor Immelman put on the green jacket of the Western Golf Association and then raising a championship trophy Sunday.
After all, the man already has a green jacket – albeit a more famous one – in his closet for winning a little tournament in Augusta, Ga.
The 2008 Masters champion won the inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship with a 6-under 66 in Sunday’s final round. He finished the four-day tournament at 20 under, earning $180,000 and, more importantly, his PGA Tour card for next season.
“I’ve got to say, I’ve felt good the last few months and felt like if I could get some confidence, get some self belief, that things could turn around,” Immelman said.
Immelman had won more than $12 million on the PGA Tour but only $350,549 this year, putting him in the position of having to compete against a lot of relatively unknown players in the Web.com Tour’s new Finals to get his card back.
“From Tuesday when I got here, I loved the look of the golf course and felt comfortable here,” Immelman said. “It was just nice to put four, good, solid rounds together.”
Immelman’s 16-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 18th at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills Golf Club put him atop the leader board.
Patrick Cantlay, 21, missed an 8-footer two groups later that would have forced a playoff.
Immelman has overcome a removal of a tumor on his diaphragm before winning the Masters, plus elbow and wrist injuries since then, and he hopes winning in Fort Wayne will propel him back to greatness.
“Up till this week, the only positive I could really take out of the year was I was injury free,” said Immelman, a 33-year-old South African. “I’ve worked hard to get to a point where I’m injury free and can go out there and practice as hard as I want, and then come back the next day and do it again. That’s what I kept saying: ‘You’re healthy now. You’re only 33. Keep grinding it out and we’ll see what happens.’ ”
Attendance figures for the tournament won’t be available until today, but several thousand watched Immelman throughout the day.
Tournament organizers estimated about $4 million in economic impact for Fort Wayne through the event, which will be at Sycamore Hills at least two more years and is run by the Western Golf Association.
The field melded players from the PGA Tour (eligible were Nos. 126 to 200 in the FedExCup standings) and its developmental circuit, the Web.com Tour (the top 75 on money list got invited), and 25 PGA Tour cards will be won in the four-week finals that started in Fort Wayne and now moves to Davidson, N.C.
Cantlay came into the day as the leader at 19 under, three strokes ahead of Kevin Kisner. Immelman was among six players in third, five strokes off the pace.
“I didn’t hit it very well today,” said Cantlay, who shot a 72. “I missed a lot of greens, and I didn’t make any putts. I hit a lot of good ones – the speed was good – but none went in and that summarizes my day.”
Cantlay battled a back injury this year, and if he didn’t need the Tour card, he wouldn’t have been in Fort Wayne. Cantlay won $108,000 for placing second.
“I’m not going to blame anything on my back because I played well all week, in spite of it,” Cantlay said.
Kisner, who shot 70, and Scott Gardiner, who had a 69, tied for third at 18 under and pocketed $58,000 each.
Bud Cauley and John Peterson tied for fifth at 17 under, earning $38,000 each. Cauley finished with a 69 while Peterson had a 64.
“I had a great week,” Immelman said. “None of us were really sure what to expect. It was the first time for this four-tournament Finals system. But Sycamore Hills is a fantastic course.”