Fans booed the winner Sunday as he hoisted the Leonard Trophy given to the champion at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Boo Weekley loved every minute of it. He also loved the fact that, after five winless seasons at PGA Tour events, he celebrated with his garment of choice: a red plaid jacket, which he earned by outlasting 54-hole leader Matt Kuchar by one stroke in a back-nine duel at Hogan’s Alley.
“Boo is not a golf name. It’s a baseball name,” said Weekley, a former mini-tour competitor whose nickname actually comes from the “Boo Boo” character in Yogi Bear cartoons. “But now, it’s finally up there on the Wall [of Champions]. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Weekley put it there with a stellar week of ball-striking capped by a final-round 66 that allowed him to finish at 14-under par and withstand Kuchar’s closing birdie that brought him to 13 under, a stroke ahead of defending champ Zach Johnson (12 under).
Weekley, 39, collected six birdies in his final-round surge, including a chip-in at No. 3. None of his birdie putts traveled farther than 22 feet and he split 12 of 14 fairways, his best effort of tournament week.
Weekley played so well from tee to green that he could afford to miss a pair of 4-foot birdie putts in crunch time (No. 14, No. 17) and still putt out at No. 18 with a two-stroke lead in the group ahead of Kuchar, making Kuchar’s final birdie anticlimactic.
The victory was Weekley’s first since back-to-back triumphs at the Heritage Classic (2007, 2008), the only other tour stop that awards a red plaid jacket to its winner. Those also represent all three of Weekley’s career victories, making him a connoisseur of multi-colored sport coats.
“I like plaid, man. I’ve already got two others,” Weekley said. “I’ll need to win here next year so I can have a matching set.”
That will be next year’s issue. In terms of the 2013 Colonial title, Weekley leaned heavily on his caddie, Barry Williams, to help him read putts because he has battled a medical condition that causes his left eye to twitch and creates blurred vision.
Weekley said Williams was pivotal in helping him line up an 18-footer at No. 10, as well as a 9-footer at No. 10, that allowed him to make three consecutive birdies to swing the momentum in his direction while fellow front-runners struggled.
“On No. 9, he came in. It looked like it was straight to me and he is like, ‘No, it’s out here,’” Weekley said. “He gave me a spot to look at and I judged off of it. And, then, the same thing on 10.”
At roughly the same time Weekley made his three-birdie run to reach 13 under, Scott Stallings took a double bogey at No. 15 to fall out of the lead and back to 11 under. He never recovered.
Johnson and Kuchar, meanwhile, could not collect enough back-nine birdies to catch Weekley, who played most of the closing holes with a two-stroke advantage.
“Boo is a phenomenal ball-striker and he showed that,” said Johnson, who collected his fifth consecutive top-10 finish at Colonial, with titles in 2010 and 2012. “I played well, and that’s all you can do. I’ve got to tip my cap to him.”
Kuchar, the No. 13 player in the world golf rankings and top-rated player in the Colonial field, managed just three birdies in his final round and blamed himself for too much errant wedge play.
“Those are scoring clubs. I had them in my hands and I didn’t hit them close enough,” Kuchar said. “I just wasn’t tight enough with the wedges.”
But Weekley was. The performance lifted him to No. 55 in the world golf rankings and secured Weekley’s berth in next month’s U.S. Open.
The triumph also validated an off-season of swing tweaks, made in conjunction with instructor Scott Hamilton, that has boosted his confidence level to its highest point since Weekley played on the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“The mental side of it, I always am struggling with that,” Weekley said. “You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing, what you are working on. Beginning this year, we changed some things up… with my swing and made it better. It was just a matter of time. At some point, I thought I could win again as close as I was hitting it. I really believe if I can keep this emotion going, I feel like I can probably do it again this year.”
The downside? If Weekley does win again this season, he will not receive another plaid jacket to add to his collection. But he probably will get booed, a practice Thomas Brent “Boo” Weekley embraces because no one calls him by anything other than his nickname.
“Any time you hear your name, especially when you are playing good, it’s fun,” Weekley said. “I loved hearing it today.”
The next time Weekley visits Colonial, he probably will be booed again. But he also will be able to see his name etched in stone on the Wall of Champions.