By: Derryl Trujillo
Inland Sports Senior Writer
MURRIETA – As the leaderboard began bunching up in Thursday afternoon’s final round of the California State Open, which was being played at the Bear Creek Golf Course in Murrieta, it was becoming clear that extra holes were going to be likely in crowning a champion. Down the stretch it looked as if five or six guys could be in that playoff, but title challengers eventually fell away until two men completed regulation at -14 (274).
Then it took Matt Wilson (Fullerton) and Christopher Evans (Bermuda Dunes) an extra nine holes to decide a winner, beating the eight it took Harris English to win last week’s PGA Tour Travelers’ Championship in Hartford. Wilson ended it with a chip-in on the ninth extra hole from twenty feet short of the flag and became the 113th different name to go on this trophy.
For much of the round it looked as if Murrieta’s Josh Anderson and Ramona’s Christian Rajcic were going to be a part of any playoff proceedings, joining their competitor Evans for extra holes. However, they would end up missing by a shot after bogeying three of their final four holes combined.
Both Anderson (rolling in an uphill twenty-footer) and Rajcic (making a ten-foot putt with about a hole of break) started off their rounds with a birdie at number one…
Anderson then had a two hole stretch of bogey and double bogey on seven and eight and fell back to -10 before draining an 85-foot eagle putt at nine to turn in even par 36 and stay at -12.
Rajcic reached the par five third in two and two putted from thirty feet along with nearly holing out at four from 140 yds to reach -15. However, he too had bogeys late in the front nine (five and seven-short three putt) to turn in -1 (35) and -13 overall.
After a bogey at the second Evans made three birdies in seven holes by two putting both par fives (three and nine-two putt from 70 feet) after reaching in two and converting a twenty-five-foot birdie putt at eight to turn in -13 and -2 on his round.
Wilson turned in -2 (34) and got to -11 after three birdies at two, five, and nine which offset a lone bogey at one. Playing two groups ahead of the leaders he had the opportunity to post and then wait.
Anderson birdied ten (stuck an approach to ten feet), eleven (reached the par 5 in two), and fourteen (was just over the back on a par 5 in two and got up and down) to reach -15. However, he made two late bogeys at seventeen and eighteen after missing the greens with wedges to fall by a shot.
I spoke with the Murrieta native on his way home, and he said “I had a rough stretch in the middle of the round but really got hot on the back nine. Despite the late mistakes I played well this week and can carry that confidence with me as I head towards Q-School.”
After getting up and down for par at ten, Rajcic came within 2.5 feet of an albatross at eleven but missed the eagle putt and made birdie to reach -14. He rolled in a lengthy birdie at the par three sixteenth from just outside twenty feet but bogeys at fifteen at eighteen also cost him a playoff spot.
Evans had two impressive up and downs from greenside bunkers to start his back nine at ten and eleven (for birdie) and reach -14. Two holes later he reached -15 after laying up on a short par four and spinning a wedge back to near tap in distance. A three-putt bogey from about eighty feet at sixteen dropped him to -14 and the playoff.
Wilson made four birdies in a five hole stretch at 11, 13, 14, and 15 to reach -15. However, he too made a late bogey (on eighteen) and dropped to -14, good enough for a playoff.
Neither player gave themselves a solid look at birdie during playoff holes one through seven as the greens dried out and well struck shots were bouncing out to twenty or more feet. At eight (playoff alternated between #17 and #18) the two players both three putted for bogey. Then on nine they both missed the green with wedges. Wilson was first to play, chipping in from twenty-five feet short, and putting the pressure on Evans whose putt from the fringe just missed.
Wilson remarked about his first professional win “I don’t have a lot of experience in playoffs (my 2nd) but today certainly makes up for it. When I got hot there on my back nine, I didn’t take a look at scoring to see where I was and just focused on running my own race. After the three putt I was grateful to still have life and another hole. Being able to close out a tournament is something I’ve been working on the right things headed towards Q-School.”
Derryl Trujillo can be reached by email at email@example.com.