Rod Pampling goes to Vegas, bucks the odds and leaves with an unlikely victory
Hey, it’s Las Vegas, the city of hope, where the odds, however prohibitive, are bucked on occasion and those who come expecting to lose surprisingly win.
Which brings us to Rod Pampling, 47, a two-time PGA Tour winner who had been consigned to journeyman status and seemingly was destined to retain it.
Then he came to Vegas, rolled the dice and went home a winner for the first time in more than a decade. Pampling opened the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open with a 12-under par 60, closed it with four birdies on his last six holes, and won by two at the TPC Summerlin on Sunday.
“It’s extremely rewarding,” the Australian native said. “Obviously, winning Arnold Palmer’s event in ’06 is still on top, but coming back from what we’ve had the last few years to get a win under the belt is phenomenal and amazing. It’s a great feeling.”
Pampling’s second and last victory had come in the Bay Hill Invitational in 2006. He had lost his PGA Tour exemption and regained it only through a late run on the web.com Tour. At that, given his age and four years removed from his last reasonably productive season on the PGA Tour, odds had him limping toward 50 and the PGA Tour Champions.
Yet somehow he retained hope and it rewarded him with the largest payday of his career, $1,188,000, and an exemption that will carry him through to the senior tour.
“It’s just a self-belief that I know it’s still there,” he said. “The body feels healthy. I know I have the game for it out here. It was just being patient and grinding it out on the Web tour. It gives you confidence that you can compete against the younger guys.”
He proved that impressively on Sunday, when he began the final round a stroke behind Lucas Glover and tied with Brooks Koepka, 26, a U.S. Ryder Cup player and ranked 22nd in the world.
Pampling outplayed Koepka by two shots in the final round, posting a six-under par 65 to Koepka’s 67 to win by two. Glover, meanwhile, bogeyed the final two holes to shoot 69 and finished three back.
It seemed a safe bet that either Glover or Koepka would win, given Pampling’s form chart in recent years and nerves eroded by age. Yet Pampling birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th holes, then holed a 30-foot birdie putt from above the hole on 18 to secure a victory that no one other than an aging pro with a steadfast belief in himself could have seen coming.
A city of hope, indeed.