BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—Defending champion Lanto Griffin and Cameron Davis battled until the final hole of the Nashville Golf Open, with Davis sinking a birdie putt to take away the title at the Nashville Golf & Athletic Club on Sunday.
Davis’s seven-under 65 tied him with Adam Svensson for the best showing on Round 4. He emerged out of nowhere late on Sunday. He broke free from a pack of eight contenders within two shots of the lead by firing seven birdies on the final 12 holes.
Kevin Doughtery, Josh Teater and Griffin finished a shot back.
Dawson Armstrong, a Brentwood native and former Lipscomb University golfer, shot minus-3 for the day. He finished the tournament at minus-9 and in a 12-way tie for 30th.
Tied for the lead with Griffin and Teater to start the 18th hole, Davis pulled ahead with a birdie after sinking about a seven-foot putt.
Teater, playing in the next threesome, missed about a 12-foot putt that would have forced a playoff.
Griffin, the leader after Days 2 and 3, shot even par on Sunday. Playing in the day’s last group, he failed to make the birdie he needed on 18.
That left Davis, as 23-year-old from Sydney, Australia, to take home the $99,000 first prize.
“I was just coming down the stretch, thinking I needed to take advantage of every opportunity I get… it was just enough,” Davis said. “I’m glad it was that way, because I couldn’t have done too much more.”
Griffin hooked his tee shot on 18 on the 655-yard par-five well off the fairway. There was a large tent squarely between he and the green. The defending champ gave himself a chance with an iron shot that fell two or three dozen yards shy of the green, but between the rough on the left and a bunker on the right.
Griffin’s chip was on line, but died about 25 feet from the hole. He then left the tying putt about six inches short of the hole.
“It was one of those putts that can get away from you,” Griffin said. “I didn’t want to leave it short, but… if I was going to make it, I wanted to make it at the right speed. I didn’t want to get crazy with it and knock it 10 feet back, I didn’t want to miss my line.”
The event, in its third year, had a total purse of $550,000.
A rising star from Down Under
Sunday’s day typified a whirlwind last year for Davis.
After turning pro in late 2016, the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder won the 2017 Australian Open on Nov. 26, but nothing since.
But a fourth-place finish at the Knoxville Open just two weeks ago had Davis heading in a better direction going into this week.
“It’s fantastic,” he said moments after winning on Sunday. “I’ve been trending upwards over the last couple of weeks. I’ve gone from having no status, to having enough status to be able to play events. To go from that, to now winning one, has been a pretty steep rise over the last year.”
What worked for him on Sunday that didn’t work the first three rounds?
“I putted very well,” he said. “I putted pretty well for the most of the week, but I had a bit of a bad putting day on the second round. The first, third and fourth rounds have all been good putting days. And today, I really kept rolling putts even when the pressure was on, which was a big improvement.”
No repeat for Griffin
After closing strong to win last year, Griffin fired his worst round on Sunday.
Uneven play was the biggest culprit. Griffin bogeyed four of the first six holes, with birdies sandwiched between on holes three, five and seven.
There were no more bogeys from there, but just a lone birdie on 13. That left the door open for Davis to make his late charge.
“I didn’t hit it great the first three days, but I kind of got away with it,” Griffin said. “It catches up with you after a while, if you don’t hit it well and don’t know where it’s going. I probably deserved to shoot 72 today. I needed to hit it better, I putted it fine.”
Still, Griffin was proud of his efforts.
“I’ll look back and be happy with it. It’ll give me some momentum going forward, especially with putting better and the short game going good.
“But yeah, it hurts. I’d rather finish fifth or sixth… right now.”
Griffin, who plays on the PGA Tour, had two weeks off between events. That’s the main reason he decided to return to the place where he’s had so much success.
“We had two weeks off. I didn’t get into the Colonial Invitational, and the Memorial’s next week, so I didn’t want two weeks off,” he said.
Playing for charity
Part of the event’s proceeds went to benefit the Snedeker Foundation, run by PGA professional Brandt Snedeker and his wife, Mandy. That foundation has raised over a million dollars for various local charities.
Celebrity guest player Jake Owen’s much-publicized “birdies for charity” failed to materialize as planned.
However, the Nashville Golf Open announced after Sunday’s play that it would donate $10,000 to Owen’s foundation.