Sunday, January 15, 2012


HONOLULU -- Johnson Wagner was bursting with so much excitement about his game at the start of the year that his father jokingly asked if he was on speed. It was just confidence, the most powerful drug in golf.
He worked harder than ever in the offseason and lost 20 pounds. He grew a moustache and developed thick skin from the reaction to it. And he told his friends and family that he would win early in the year and go to the Masters.
Wagner backed it all up Sunday by winning the Sony Open in Hawaii.
He played bogey-free over the last 12 holes, a winning recipe on a tough day at Waialae, and closed with a 3-under 67 for a two-shot victory that propelled him to the FedExCup lead and filled him with even more confidence about his game and the rest of the season.
"I was definitely telling people to expect something early this year, which is a nice feeling," Wagner said. "Usually, my confidence is low. I'm kind of shy in a little shell. And for some reason, I just had way more energy and confidence going into this year."
It was his third career victory on the US PGA Tour, and it sends him to the Masters, along with allowing him to book another two-week working vacation in Hawaii next year.
Wagner, who finished at 13-under 267, earning 500 FedExCup points and $990,000, was among six players who had at least a share of the lead at some point in the final round. He was the only guy to stay there.
Harrison Frazar took the outright lead with a birdie on No. 10, but had to settle for pars the rest of the way for a 67.
Charles Howell III was paired with Wagner and stayed with him until a three-putt par on the par-5 ninth. He birdied the last hole for a 69. Sean O'Hair narrowly missed a 30ft eagle putt on the last hole and shot 67, while Carl Pettersson overcame a double bogey on his second hole with four birdies on the last six holes for a 67. They all tied for second place.
"My first top 10 as an American," said Pettersson, the Swede who became a U.S. citizen during the offseason.
They were all chasing Wagner, who seized control with a 9-iron into the 15th that was pin-high, just off the green. He rolled that in for birdie, and then didn't come close to making a mistake until he nearly missed a tap-in par on the 18th.
Coming into the year, Wagner had only seven top 10s -- including two wins -- in 139 tournaments. He had never made it to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and played in only four majors.
But what a transformation. Along with his work ethic, he began jotting notes and goals into a notebook, using the green cover he received in 2008 from his lone Masters appearance.
With respect to his moustache -- Frazar made a "Magnum P.I." reference at Kapalua -- the biggest change with Wagner was his attitude.
"I love being out here. There's so many great players," he said. "But why are they any better? Why are the people in the top 50 better than me? I've always struggled a little bit with believing in myself."
As for that moustache getting so much attention?
Wagner didn't shave during Thanksgiving and kept the moustache.
"Kind of made a deal with myself in December that if I was to get into the Masters, then I was going to keep the moustache for at least this year," he said. "Everybody said, `Oh, is it a November moustache? Well, it's December, time to shave it.' I said, Look, this is not a one-month moustache. This is potentially a 10-year moustache.'
"So I think it's going to be around for a while."
Jeff Maggert and Matt Every, tied for the lead going into the last day, both collapsed early. Every was 4 over through six holes and rallied for a 72. Maggert missed a slew of short putts and shot 74.
Every made bogey from the bunker on the first hole, drove into the water at No. 2, three-putted for bogey at No. 4 and three-putted again from 4 feet on the sixth hole for a double bogey.
Maggert was scrambling from the start, too, and while he holed par putts of 8 and 15 feet on the opening two holes, it caught up with him.
They were still in the hunt at the turn -- and so was everyone else.
US PGA champion Keegan Bradley hit 8-iron into about 6 feet for eagle on the par-5 ninth, creating a five-way tie for the lead along with Maggert, Every, Frazar and Wagner.
Bradley fell back when his long bunker shot sailed 20 yards over the 10th green, turning a birdie chance into a bogey. Frazar hit his easier bunker shot on the 10th to a foot to take the outright lead, only to be joined a short time later by Wagner, who birdied the ninth. Michael Thompson joined them briefly in the lead until a bogey on the 17th.
Wagner was the only player who kept it going.
He started the back nine by driving safely into the front left bunker and holing a 10-footer for birdie to take the outright lead, and he never gave it back. No one else made enough birdies, and Wagner didn't make any mistakes. He seized control for good on the 15th when his approach settled just on the fringe about 15 feet away for birdie and a two-shot lead.

Par 280 (4x70)
Players from US unless stated
267 Johnson Wagner 68 66 66 67
269 Carl Pettersson (Sweden) 65 67 70 69, Sean O'Hair 67 67 68 67, Harrison Frazar 67 68 67 67, Charles Howell III 67 67 66 69.
270 Michael Thompson 70 65 68 67, Brian Gay 69 69 65 67, D A Points 68 69 64 69, Matt Every 66 64 68 72.
Selected total
280 Greg Owen (England) 69 69 69 73 (T59).





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