Steve Flesch never seemed to be comfortable with the new set of irons he brought to TPC Sugarloaf for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic. So he followed his intuition, put the old sticks back in the bag and used the familiarity with the clubs and the golf course to win his second PGA Tour Champions event.
Flesch shot a 7-under-par 65 on Sunday to shoot 11-under 205, erase a four-shot deficit to beat David Toms and win the Mitsubishi Electric Classic for the second time. He became the first two-time winner of the event in its nine-year history, adding to the trophy he won in 2018.
“I just hung in there (Sunday) because I did everything I could to try and make it as hard as possible the first two days,” Flesch said. “I’ve got a lot of encouraging, supportive friends and family, so today was a lot of redemption for a lot of people.”
Toms, the second-round leader, shot a 70 to finish at 10 under. He missed a 10-footer for birdie on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff. Padraig Harrington shot 64 and Fred Couples closed with a 66 to join the three-way tie for second place.
“I said yesterday afternoon that I needed to play really good golf to win,” Toms said. “I mean, the guy that won the tournament shot 7 under and the guy who tied me shot 8 under. I shot 2 under, even though it felt like I played a lot better than that.”
“I can draw on a lot of positivity, and that's how I feel when I come here because whenever you've had success and won at a place, you're always going to feel good. That's how I feel when I show up at Sugarloaf."
- winner Steve Flesch
Toms looked like he was ready to run away and hide when he birdied three of the first four holes and led by three. But other than a birdie at 10, he was marking time. A bogey at the 15th hole, where wind carried his approach right of the green, led to a three-way tie between Flesch and Harrington at 10 under.
Flesch took the lead with a birdie at 17, fading an 8-iron close to the hole and making the putt. He wasn’t overly aggressive at 18, which he parred. From there he had to wait for Toms to finish, two groups later.
Toms was unable to go for the green on the par-5 closing hole because he had removed his 5-wood from the bag and replaced it with a gap wedge. That forced Toms to lay up and try to make birdie with his wedge. He hit his approach to about 12 feet but left the tricky putt short and left to give Flesch the title.
“I didn’t hit a very good wedge shot, obviously,” Toms said. “The last time I had that yardage today, I hit it about a foot on No. 10, so I felt like it was an easy shot and I just didn’t hit a very good one.”
Flesch had the courage to make the change with his irons Sunday morning. The new clubs had heavier shafts but were going too far, and Flesch couldn’t trust the numbers. And because he had the older clubs with him, there was no reluctance to change.
“Being left-handed is kind of tough,” Flesch said. “I can’t just go pick them up somewhere, especially with the supply issues now. PGA Tour Superstore doesn’t have a whole lot of left-handed stuff.”
Harrington, who turned 50 last August, was looking for his first PGA Tour Champions win. He is finally able to give his full attention to the senior circuit this season after focusing on his duties as the European Ryder Cup captain in 2021.
The three-time major champion began the day in a tie for 13th, six shots behind Toms. He made his biggest run to start the back nine with five straight birdies. He added another at 17 and parred 18 from the greenside bunker to shoot 64, his lowest score in 15 rounds on the senior tour.
Couples didn’t make a bogey in the final round and birdied the final hole to pull into the tie for second.
Ernie Els closed with a 67 and was fifth at 9 under, Mark Walker shot 68 and finished sixth, earning him an exemption into the next non-major senior event. Tied for seventh at 6 under were Paul Broadhurst, Glen Day and Colin Montgomerie.
Flesch continued his mastery at TPC Sugarloaf, thanks largely to a comfort level he feels on the course.
“I’ve had great results,” he said. “I can draw on a lot of positivity, and that’s how I feel when I come here because whenever you’ve had success and won at a place, you’re always going to feel good. That’s how I feel when I show up at Sugarloaf.”