Dominion Energy Charity Classic Powers on Drama Down the Stretch
Published on October 23, 2017
Story and Photos by Kent Paisley
Richmond, Va.— Bernhard Langer came to the par 5 18th at The Dominion Energy Charity Classic Sunday searching for a birdie to force a playoff. He had parred the hole the day before.
Instead, the titan of the Champions Tour rolled home a 12-foot right to left downhill slider for eagle, claiming the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs and his 35th championship of his Champions Tour career.
“It was very exciting to come down the 18th and to make an eagle,” Langer said. “I was missing so many putts today, and I finally made one when it mattered.”
Langer and Singh Duel Early
Langer opened the day with a three-shot lead over Vijay Singh, who played an immaculate ten-under-par over the final 15 holes Saturday.
The two World Golf Hall of Famers were the final pairing of the day, and set for a duel for the title.
Langer expanded that lead to four strokes with a birdie at the first.
The German native failed to add a red number to his scorecard for another 12 holes.
Singh capitalized early on with Langer’s inability to convert birdies, closing the gap with birdies at 3, 5, & 6, trailing by one stroke heading to the par 4 seventh.
Singh’s Wheels Fall Off
On the seventh green Singh stared down an 18-footer for birdie, which he missed high side of the cup. The ball parked right behind the cup, a foot-and-a-half away.
It was not Singh’s swollen ankle that failed him. Nor his right knee, which needs to be replaced.
Every golfer’s nightmare, the cursed yips, did him in.
He missed the one-and-a-half footer, carding a bogey. He did not make another putt outside three feet until the 18th, where he converted a birdie from 12 feet.
He finished the tournament tied for third at -12, alongside Kenny Perry and Billy Mayfair.
The yips struck again later on in the tournament at a critical juncture.
Scott Verplank sat five back of the lead at the start of the day, tied for fourth place at -9.
He sat with plenty of Schwab Cup Points to spare to advance into the next round of the playoffs.
He could not have foreseen the struggle the groups in front of him had, methodically going about his business.
He posted the exact same score on the front and back nine from moving day, turning in another 33/33 for a -6 round.
Verplanck had an up and down final stretch, with plenty of moments remaining in his head on his plane flight back home.
On the 15th hole, the tournament moved the tee box to make the hole 284 yards. Verplank elected to go to an iron off the tee, laying up and carding a par on the hole.
He followed up with a gem of a 16th, going driver-three wood to 15 yards from the pin on the par 5.
He had about five paces of green to work with, and parked his wedge shot after one hop to four feet for his birdie.
At the 18th, another par 5, he went driver-hybid to a tough back left position. With the pin back right and sloping away from him, he had to pick the ball perfectly to get it to hold.
Verplanck stopped his ball on a dime from the slippery angle to set up another four-footer.
He followed with a case of the yips.
The ball missed right after the pushed putt, and he settled for par.
“You know what, if I won 35 times, I probably would have chipped it in or got it up and down,” Verplanker explained.
At -15, he held the clubhouse lead, with Langer on the 17th one stroke back.
Langer Grinds to the 18th
Langer carded his first bogey of the week on the 8th hole. He avoided a bogey on the 6th with a resilient up and down from 75 yards after dropping a ball into the hazard.
Langer recorded his second birdie of the day on the 13th, and his tee shot made it look as if he still had more grinding to do.
He sat 130 yards out on the 347-yard hole after yanking his tee shot left into the thick Bermuda rough. The ball nestled down, with about a fourth of the ball visible from the top of the rough.
Langer had no trees in the way, and in spite of the rough, fired a pin seeker, the ball rolling to four feet above the flag.
The yips, which pervaded his opponent’s games, did not find Langer, as he knocked home the short birdie.
He bogeyed 14 from just outside the greenside bunker, missing a ten-footer for par. He scrambled for par at the 16th, and missed a 12-footer for birdie on the par 3 17th.
The Final Three Strokes
The 516-yard par 5 closing hole finished as the easiest scoring hole of the day, with players averaging half a stroke under par.
Langer piped his drive down the center of the fairway. He was stuck between clubs for his second shot, a two hybrid and a three wood.
He elected to hit a cut three wood, resulting with the ball twelve feet from the cup for the eagle and the win.
“You never know until it goes in,” Langer said.
It dropped dead in the heart of the cup.
The celebration was on from there, as Langer secured his sixth championship of the year out of twenty four events on the season.
The Field Shrinks
The top 54 players in Charles Schwab Cup points advanced to the Powershares QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Fran Quinn and David McKenzie played their way into the field, from 59th and 57thto 53rd and 54th in points, respectively. Quinn carded an impressive 66, including an eagle on the 18th, to punch his ticket to California.
Larry Mize and Mark Brooks fell out of the second-round field, finishing at -2 and -1 respectively.
The Powershares QQQ Championship takes place next weekend, with the Charles Schwab Playoffs concluding November 10th-12th at Phoenix Country Club in Arizona.
Birdies for Charity
While most are focused on the quality of golf at the opening round of the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, Birdies for Charity organizes itself to capitalize on that quality of play.
But fans can contribute as well through Birdies for Charity.
Birdies for Charity was originally conceived at the John Deere Classic, a PGA tour event.
In 1992, the tournament organizer offered the person closest to guessing the number of birdies converted by the field a free car, in exchange for a donation per birdie made.
The model delivered six times the amount expected to be raised, and has been expanding ever since.
Birdies for Charity has 122 charities under its umbrella this year. While the charities are primarily based in Richmond, there are charities from out of state as well, such as Saratoga War Horse in New York.
Fans are offered two ways to donate. They can either use a flat fee, or a donation made for every birdie in the tournament.
The PGA tour matches 10 percent of any donation made to a charity listed.
Monica Mitchell, the organizer of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic’s Birdies for Charity, explained that participation rose from last year, but that was due to the platform starting operations too late last season.
Shes aid a majority of contributions are flat fee donations, as charities reach out to their donors, recommending using the Birdies for Charity platform to capitalize on the extra 10 percent contribution from the PGA tour.
Currently, they have collected $55,000 in flat fees for various charities. The amount collected from per birdie amounts will be calculated after the conclusion of the tournament.
There were 584 birdies recorded last year over the three round tournament. The field expanded from 54 players last year to 72 players this year. Through two rounds this year, 526 birdies are posted.
Fans can donate at the tent in the Fan Experience Zone, or online, following this link.