Wagner rallies to win Sony Open

Posted Jan. 15, 2012, at 9:39 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 15, 2012, at 11:24 p.m.

HONOLULU — Johnson Wagner worked so hard in the offseason that he told friends he was going to win early in the year, and he hardly wasted any time.

Wagner played bogey-free over the last 12 holes, a winning recipe on a tough day at Waialae, and closed with a 3-under 67 to pull away from a half-dozen contenders and win the Sony Open on Sunday.

As for that mustache getting so much attention? It’s going to stay for at least another week, and maybe until he gets to Augusta National in April. The third win of his career earned him an invitation to the Masters.

Wagner was among six players who had a share of the lead at some point in the final round. He was the only guy to stay there, and wound up with a two-shot win over Carl Pettersson, Sean O’Hair, Harrison Frazar and Charles Howell III.

Coming into the year, Wagner only had seven top 10s in 139 starts on tour, including two wins. He opened the year at Kapalua with a tie for ninth, and then rallied from a two-shot deficit to win the Sony Open.

Frazar had the best chance. He had the outright lead briefly after a birdie at No. 10, then made pars the rest of the way for a 67. Pettersson overcame a double bogey on the second hole and finished with four birdies on the last six holes, also for a 67.

“My first top 10 as an American,” said Pettersson, the Swede who became an American citizen in the offseason.

O’Hair had a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole that burned the edge. He had to settle for a 67, while Howell birdied his last hole for 69 to join the group tied for second.

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.

Considering all the attention Every received this week — his comments about his marijuana possession arrest two years ago his awkward television interview — he said Saturday night that “I’m just ready to get it over with.”

And that he did. He was tied for the lead with Maggert, and quickly spent the day in hopeless pursuit.

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.

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.

Grace captures Joburg Open

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s Branden Grace won his first European Tour title Sunday with a par 72 for a one-shot victory at the Joburg Open.

Grace had a bogey and birdie on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to edge Englishman Jamie Elson, finishing at 17-under 270.

The 23-year-old Grace had his three-shot, third-round lead cut to one when Elson made a 30-foot putt for eagle on No. 18 to finish with a 63. Elson had seven birdies along with his eagle, including six in his first eight holes.

But Grace, one of 27 players to complete his third round in the morning because of rain delays, held on with nine straight pars coming home for his second professional win after a 2010 victory on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour.

“I played really nicely, I hit the ball superb I think, and the putter was just cold,” Grace said. “I couldn’t get the speed of the greens. Fortunately, at the end of the day, it was enough.”

Scottish pair David Drysdale (67) and Marc Warren (68) were part of a six-way tie for third. Retief Goosen had a 73 and finished 16th, seven shots behind the leader.

Organizers were forced to play catch-up for most of the tournament after rain and darkness caused the first three rounds to be completed the next day.

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