San Diego County Open Golf : Clements Has a Winning Vacation

Lenny Clements' idea seemed like such a relaxing one.

While the other guys on the PGA Tour were working up a sweat at Memphis, Clements decided to prepare for next week's PGA Championship by spending the weekend at home.

While at home at Rancho Bernardo, he figured why not get in a few easy practice rounds and play in the San Diego County Open at the Cottonwood Golf Club? It sounded relaxing enough.

It was, for a while.

Clements played so well the first three days that he found himself right in the middle of championship chase Sunday. Furthermore, the chase would spill over into overtime as Jeff Wilson shot a four-under-par 69 to force a sudden-death playoff with Clements on Cottonwood's Ivanhoe course. Clemens, who shot a 70, and Wilson finished regulation at 271, 20 under par.

The playoff ended quickly, as Wilson three-putted for a bogey on the first extra hole to give Clements the $12,000 first prize.

"This tournament really worked out perfectly for me," Clements said. "I wanted to take some time off (the tour) to relax and get ready for the PGA, and I wanted to spend some time at home with the kids. The tournament provided me a good chance to kind of rest and play at the same time.

"I played real well for three days and when I got to the final round, I said, 'Why not go for it?' "

Clements trailed Lon Hinkle by three shots going into the final round. Wilson, who had shared the second-round lead, was another shot back.

Clements birdied the second and third holes, and Hinkle bogeyed No. 4. The tournament was tied and Wilson was two back.

Things stayed that way until the 13th hole. Clements bogeyed 13 and 14 to fall two shots behind Hinkle and Wilson, who got a share of the lead with birdies on 14 and 15.

"I have to admit it was looking bad," said Clements, who was playing with Hinkle. Wilson was one group ahead of them. "There were two par 5s left and I figured Lon would be able to birdie. I just had to be patient and hope he didn't."

Hinkle did not birdie them. Clements did.

An approach shot on 17 dropped within three feet and Clements tapped in to force a three-way tie for the lead with one hole left.

After Wilson parred the par-3 18th, Hinkle hit his tee shot to the right of the green. His chip was true but it bounced 12 feet past the pin. He missed his par putt and was done for the day.

"I worked hard all week on my short chipping and then I had a chance to execute it out on the course," Hinkle said. "It's disappointing to fall on your face."

Meanwhile, Clements came through with a routine par, and while Hinkle headed to the clubhouse and Wilson headed to No. 16 for the playoff, Clements headed to the driving range to hit a couple of quick practice shots.

"I wanted to make sure I was ready for the playoff," Clements said. "Some people could say this was just a minor tournament for me, but they don't realize that a win is a win. I've been on the tour six years and never won, and the last time I'd won any tournament was three or four years ago."

On the par-4, 434-yard 16th, both players were close in two, Wilson sitting about 35-feet above the hole on the green and Clements just off the green about 15-feet below the hole.

Wilson left his birdie attempt about three feet short. Clements drew his putter back and then a photographer inadvertently clicked a camera.

Clements left his putt about four feet short, turned and shouted at the photographer.

Then, he struck his next put around and in the cup for a par.

Wilson tapped his putt past the hole, and Clements had his championship.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World