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Record crowds welcome Nationwide Tour

Wearing his bright orange championship coat, Kirk Triplett proudly holds up his News Sentinel Open trophy on the 18th green after winning the Nationwide Tour’s 13 consecutive stop at Fox Den Country Club (21-under-par) Sunday, Aug. 28.- Alan Sloan/farragutpress
It was far from a dramatic final round at Fox Den Country Club for a grand old man of the Nationwide Tour.

But it was played with wisdom and a good memory, as 49-year-old Kirk Triplett was steady as she goes during the News Sentinel Open, popping home an occasional birdie — and burning up No. 14 the entire tournament — without any bogeys his final 69 holes.

The leader after three rounds (17-under), Triplett fended off one back-nine charge in Sunday’s final round to win this Nationwide Tour stop at 21-under (4-under Sunday), two shots better than runners-up Marco Dawson of Lakeland, Fla. (19-under/68) Ted Potter Jr. of Silver Springs, Fla. (18-under/69) and second round leader John Mallinger of Long Beach, Calif. (18-under/70) were third. (See related stories beginning on page 1B).

Triplett claimed $90,000 of a $500,000 purse.

“I really felt playing late yesterday was a big advantage. A lot of guys had good rounds yesterday when they played earlier when the greens were a little softer,” said Triplett, a five-year PGA Tour player and 2010 News Sentinel Open contender from Scottsdale, Ariz. who won for the first time since 2006.

“But I knew exactly what the conditions were, I knew how firm those greens were getting. You couldn’t hit your shots in there two, three four paces short of the hole and have it stay. You had to be giving it eight or 10 yards of bounce.”

With other final round contenders mentioning wind as a factor Sunday — as it had been Saturday — as another element keeping scores a bit higher than many predicted, “I didn’t think anybody was going to shoot a low round,” Triplett said. “I was trying to be patient, even though I didn’t get off to a great start [six straight pars]. I knew I wasn’t going to have to shoot 62 to win.”

With a birdie at No. 7 [par 4, 422 yards], “I hit a really nice shot at seven, up the hill and into the crosswind,” Triplett said. “Made a nice putt on the next hole [birdie].”

Triplett cruised to victory during the final two holes after consecutive birdies at 13 (par 3, 166) and 14 put him at 21-under.

“I wish every hole was like 14, 360 [yards] uphill, bunkers that I can drive it over, so it’s just a nice fit for me,” Triplett said of the par 4. “I’m a nice wedge player, a nice player from 100 yards in. A little fade hole right over those bunkers.”

After consecutive bogeys from Potter at No. 14 and 15 (par 4, 427), dropping him to 18-under, Triplett held a two-shot lead, “which kinda surprised me,” he said. No one would get any closer to this Arizona resident.

“I saw a couple of guys make bogeys there on those last couple or three holes, which after seeing the pins I could certainly see why,” Triplett said. “You’re chasing, you’re shooting at them.”

Triplett was especially careful approaching No. 16 [par 3, 214] and 17 [par 4, 458] because “You can’t get anywhere near those pins, I can’t.” He finished off 18 with a tap-in par.

Praising FDCC as “much improved” versus last year, Triplett said the course suits his game “because big, long hitters can’t hit driver everywhere. … There’s a whole bunch of sharp doglegs. When you hit the ball in trouble and you get in this Bermuda rough, guys can’t control the ball. They have to throttle back or they pay the price. Nobody’s driving it over all the corners and winning this tournament.”

As for FDCC itself, “They redid the bunkers, I think it has a nicer look to it,” Triplett said. “The greens were significantly better, I thought, this year than last year. There was more grass on them. They were firmer.

“These are the style of greens I like, they’re not super fast, but they’re bentgrass. I seem to see the lines fairly well,” he added. “The course has a lot of fade shots. Even the holes where you need to draw the ball there seems to be room to fade it.”

“I thought there was better coverage in the fairways.”


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