WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
The biggest comeback in Greenbrier Classic history was at the inaugural event in 2010.
Back then, Stuart Appleby fired a course-record 59 to storm from seven-back to edge third-round leader Jeff Overton.
This year, the Old White TPC nearly saw the same as a heavy-hearted George McNeill aced the par-3 eighth while carding seven birdies in route to a nine-under 61 to vault to the top of the leaderboard.
The storybook ending was short-lived though as two-time Major champion Angel Cabrera walked away as the 2014 Greenbrier Classic Champion.
“The truth of matter is I just had a great week,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “I’ve just been working very hard to get to this moment. I’m very, very happy.”
Cabrera, who started two back of 54-hole leader Billy Hurley III, got to 17-under after eagling the par-4 13th which gave him a three-shot lead over McNeill.
Back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15 shrunk Cabrera’s lead to one, but the veteran steadied the ship with a birdie at No. 17 to win by two strokes at 16-underpar.
“It felt a little unlucky,” Cabrera said of his back-to-back bogeys. “At 14, I hit a good shot and backed off the green. And then 15, I hit another good shot and it came up bogey, but I still had to stay focused and concentrating on the task at hand.”
Cabrera, who shot a six-under 64 in the final round, had never won a regular PGA Tour event before Sunday.
The Argentinian has won two Majors — the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters.
“This was a great opportunity,” he said. “I wanted it. I needed to win a tournament.
“I felt under control out there and I didn’t want to let it get away from me.”
The win by Cabrera kept alive several streaks at the Classic.
Every winner has been playing in their first Greenbrier Classic and has come from behind.
Billy Hurley III was hoping to break those streaks after holding a two-shot lead after 54 holes.
The Navy veteran started with a birdie on No. 1, but three bogeys over the next five holes dropped him from contention.
Hurley finished with a three-over 73 to drop into a tie for fourth at nine-under.
McNeill, whose sister Michele is gravely ill, put together an amazing round to finish second.
He birdied four straight par 4s — Nos. 4-7 — then made the first ace of this year’s tournament.
McNeill didn’t stop there as he birdied the par-4 10th, par-4 16th and par-5 17th.
“I had no idea. I’ve been playing okay this week. There’s something going on elsewhere,” a teary-eyed McNeill said.
McNeill had planned on taking at least the next month off, but with his strong finish, qualified for the Open Championship in two weeks.
“I’m going home as soon as the tournament’s over,” McNeill added. “Obviously, I’ll have to make plans and arrangements for [The Open Championship]. But right now, I’m going to go home and take care of some family stuff.”
Webb Simpson finished alone in third at 10-under.
After nearly missing the cut Friday, Simpson followed Saturday’s three-under 67 with a seven-under 63 Sunday.
“Really thankful for a good last 27 holes,” said Simpson, who played his last 27 holes at 12-under par. “I feel like I’ve been playing well for a while now, just not getting anything going. Putts started dropping and today was a lot of fun.”
Bud Cauley had Sunday’s other ace and it cost Greenbrier Owner Jim Justice a few dollar bills.
Cauley’s hole-in-one on the 18th meant everyone around the green received $100 cash.
It also propelled the 24-year-old into a seven-way tie for fourth at nine-under with Hurley, Keegan Bradley, Brendon Todd, Chris Stroud, Cameron Tringale and Will Wilcox.
Crowd-favorite and Greenbrier Sporting Club resident Bubba Watson shot a second-straight one-under 69 finishing in a logjam at seven-under par (T-16).
Greenbrier Pro Emeritus and U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson carded a one-under 69 to finish four-under (T-35).
2012 winner Ted Potter, Jr. had the best showing of previous champions thanks to a 68 on Saturday and 67 on Sunday. He ended his tournament at five-under par (T-26).
2011 Classic champion Scott Stallings and 2013 champion Jonas Blixt both finished tied for 35th. They joined Tom Watson at four-under par.
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