SNOQUALMIE — Just when it seemed Scott Dunlap was going to cruise to victory in the final round of the Boeing Classic on Sunday, Mark Brooks’ late birdie binge forced Dunlap to work overtime.
But the 51-year-old isn’t complaining, not after beating Brooks on the first hole of a playoff to capture his first victory on the Champions Tour. He was winless in 204 starts on the PGA Tour.
“It means the wait was worth it,” Dunlap said of his first victory on a major tour after a closing 68 at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
Dunlap entered the final round with a one-shot lead over Doug Garwood. Twice, Dunlap was caught. The first time he responded with an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole. Then, Brooks caught him with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole, his sixth birdie in a seven-hole stretch. Dunlap responded in the playoff, the fifth in the 10-year history of the Boeing Classic, with a remarkable second shot to 6 feet of the pin on the 18th.
“I couldn’t see anything, but by the cheers, I could have guessed within a foot of how far my ball was, just based on how the crowd was reacting,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap missed the eagle putt, but no matter. He tapped in for birdie, which was good enough to win. Brooks had already missed a long birdie putt when he was forced to lay up after he hit his drive into a bunker.
It was a tough finish for Brooks after he put himself in a position to win with his late rally for a 65.
“I did not hit it that good today, but I played good golf today, let’s put it that way,” said Brooks, who won four of his seven playoffs on the PGA Tour, including the 1996 PGA Championship. “I just didn’t hit a good drive (in the playoff). I played that hole 4 under for the week, so I can’t complain other than I could have hit a better tee ball on 18 in the playoff.”
The day did not start as Dunlap had hoped. He was 1 over for the round through seven holes and was tied with Garwood, Tommy Armour III and Gene Sauers, with 13 others no more than three strokes back.
But Dunlap responded to that challenge, just as he did in the playoff. He made a 35-foot putt from the fringe on the par-5 eighth hole to gain two shots in an instant.
“I felt like I was going to get it going again, and this wasn’t the week where I was going to capitulate and just wander back to 11 under and finish eighth,” Dunlap said. “I just didn’t think that was going to happen and that (eagle) putt was the spur.”
That put him back in the lead by himself, and that was where he stayed until Brooks, playing a group in front of him, birdied the 18th to tie him at 16-under 200. Dunlap had a chance to win it in regulation, but missed a 10-foot birdie putt at 18.
“I made a nice, committed effort,” Dunlap said. “I didn’t see as much break as there was.”
Sauers finished third, two shots behind Dunlap and Brooks.
Seattle product Fred Couples finished with a flourish, shooting a 66 to tie for 15th at 8 under.
Dunlap not only made $300,000 for winning along with an aviator jacket, he also gets a one-year exemption on the Champions Tour.
Dunlap finished as high as third three times on the PGA Tour. He was unable to keep his PGA Tour card at times and played on the Web.com Tour as well as tours in South Africa, South America, Asia and Canada.
He was one of five players to earn a Champions Tour card at qualifying school in November and his best finish before this week had been a tie for fifth.
“I don’t look at my career like I underachieved,” he said. “I would like to win more, but when it’s only sparingly, it’s ever that much more enjoyable.”