Gainey became the fourth player this year to rally from at least seven shots behind in the final round to win on the PGA Tour. He made seven straight 3s on his way to a 29 on the back nine, and then had to wait more than two hours to see if Jim Furyk or anyone else could catch him.
No one came particularly close.
Tournament host and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III drove into the water on the 16th and made double bogey. Furyk made a 12-foot par save on the 17th hole to stay one shot behind, but he pushed his approach well right on the 18th and made his first bogey in 56 holes.
“It’s been a hard year for me and finally, we got it right,” Gainey said.
Gainey, a 37-year-old from South Carolina with a homemade swing who is known as “Two Gloves” for wearing black gloves on each hand, joined a long list of unlikely winners this year. He was seven shots behind going into the final round, and his 60 was nearly 9 1/2 shots better than the average score.
He wound up with a one-shot victory over David Toms, who closed with a 63. Toms also needed a birdie on the 18th hole to catch Gainey, but he pushed his drive well right into the bunker and had little chance of reaching the green.
“I was thinking about what kind of putt I was going to have before I ever hit the fairway,” Toms said. “You get ahead of yourself and that’s what happens.”
Furyk wound up with a 69 to finish alone in third, a sour end to a season filled with bitter memories. This one won’t sting as much as his bogey on the 16th hole of Olympic Club that cost him a shot at the U.S. Open, or the double bogey on the final hole at Firestone to lose the Bridgestone Invitational, or losing a 1-up lead against Sergio Garcia with two holes to play in the Ryder Cup. He had said at the start of the week that even if he were to win the McGladrey Classic, that’s not what he would remember from his 2012 season.
This time, someone went out and beat him. And Furyk simply couldn’t catch up. Furyk made only two bogeys all week.
“I think what I’m most disappointed about is when it came down the stretch, hitting the ball pretty much as good as I can, I made really, really poor swings at 17 and 18 with a 7-iron and 8-iron,” Furyk said. “So to play those two holes and not get one good look at it for birdie was disappointing.”
Gainey finished at 16-under 264 and earned $720,000, along with a trip to Kapalua in January for the Tournament of Champions and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
Love, trying to become the first Ryder Cup captain to win on the PGA Tour since Tom Watson in 1996, lost his hope on the back nine with a three-putt bogey on the 14th, a bunker shot that banged off the pin and spun out of the cup for a potential eagle on the 15th, and then his tee shot on the 16th that was left all the way and found water. He closed with a 71 and tied for fourth with Brendon de Jonge (65) and D.J. Trahan (69).
Gainey went birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie in the middle of the back nine to soar into the lead and bring 59 into the picture, a score only five players have managed in PGA Tour history. He had a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that didn’t have enough speed to hold its line.
“Got a long way to go,” Gainey said as he walked off the 18th green, knowing the final group was still on the eighth hole. Turns out he never had to hit another shot. Gainey went up to the broadcast booth, signed some autographs and spent the rest of his afternoon in the clubhouse watching on TV.
When he finally headed to the practice range, Furyk badly missed the green on the 18th and moments later Gainey was the winner.
David Mathis felt like a winner, even though he finished six shots behind and tied for 10th. He moved up to No. 116 on the money list, assuring him a PGA Tour card for next year. The final official event of the season is in three weeks at Disney. Boo Weekley shot 69 and tied for 27th to stay at No. 121, though he should be safe now.
Love and Furyk were tied for the lead entering the round, two shot ahead of anyone else, both realizing that this was far from a duel at Sea Island, especially considering that Ben Crane came from five shots back to win last year.
Both opened with four straight pars and suddenly found themselves two shots behind.
Gainey went out in 31, despite missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the second hole and failing to make birdie on the reachable par-5 seventh. Starting with his 10-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole, he put together seven straight 3s on his scorecard. His 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th tied him for the lead. He holed out a bunker shot from about 40 feet on the par-5 15th to take a two-shot lead, and then holed a 20-footer on the 16th to bring golf’s magic number into view.
Gainey hit wedge into about 20 feet on the 18th hole, leaving him a birdie putt for a shot at becoming the sixth PGA Tour player with a 59. He ran off to a portable bathroom before the big putt and gave it a nice roll. The pace was just a big off and it turned weakly away to the right.
It was the first 60 on the PGA Tour since Patrick Cantlay last year at the Travelers Championship, and it was the lowest closing round by a winner since Stuart Appleby shot 59 in The Greenbrier Classic in 2010.
Even more remarkable is the number of comebacks this year. Kyle Stanley rallied from eight shots behind to win in Phoenix. Gainey joined Brandt Snedeker (Torrey Pines) and John Huh (Mexico) as players who came from seven shots behind on the final day.