Steven Bowditch had plenty of warm, fuzzy memories and priceless photos from the Four Seasons Resort long before he collected Sunday’s trophy after the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Bowditch, a Flower Mound resident who grew up in Australia, married his wife, Amanda, at the resort on Sept. 10, 2011. There are reception photos from the 18th green, which also served as the backdrop for Sunday’s final putt to seal a four-stroke victory over Charley Hoffman and Jimmy Walker at the TPC Las Colinas course.
But Sunday’s conclusion, complete with a victorious post-round photo shoot at the final hole, added to the luster of a venue Bowditch described as “a pretty special place for myself and my wife” among PGA Tour stops.
“This is unbelievable to be sitting here,” Bowditch said as he tried to put his triumph into perspective. “It’s a pretty surreal feeling. I didn’t see this coming.”
But here’s the bottom line: Bowditch, 31, became the first wire-to-wire Nelson winner since Tom Watson in 1980. He posted 18-under par to set a tournament scoring record of 259, thanks in part to the flexible par value of the flooded 14th hole.
The hole, which normally plays at 406 yards, was transformed from a beastly par-4 to a toothless par-3 for the final three rounds because the water-logged fairway was inaccessible after absorbing 9.85 inches of rain the past two weeks.
In the Nelson record book, Bowditch replaces Fort Worth’s Rory Sabbatini, whose 261 total in 2009 was 19-under par that week. But tour officials confirmed the tournament record is based on total strokes, making Bowditch’s 259 the new mark by two strokes over Sabbatini, even though fact he did not dip as deeply into red numbers as Sabbatini.
“These were birdie golf conditions. You had to go out there, attack and keep your foot down,” Bowditch said of his tournament strategy at the soggy course. “I wasn’t really at ease out there. My insides were moving a mile a minute.”
Fortunately for Bowditch and his rooting section, his birdie putts dropped at a comparable rate compared to Nelson pursuers. Bowditch collected seven birdies Sunday and a tournament-high 26 for the week.
Amanda Bowditch said her husband’s gallery included roughly 55 family members and friends although the group seemed to grow “every time I turned around” as the day unfolded. As with her husband, Sunday’s setting brought back lots of positive vibes for her.
“Just like our wedding day, we’re surrounded by family and friends,” Amanda Bowditch said. “This place is very special to us. This is just another great memory when we come back here.”
For much of the day, it appeared Zach Johnson’s first trip to the Nelson in a decade might prove providential for the two-time Colonial champ. Johnson fired a closing 63, posted a 13-under total, and climbed past every golfer still on the course besides Bowditch. When Johnson left the course, he stood within a stroke of the lead.
But Bowditch quickly dismissed that threat with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 11 and 12 before adding two more birdies on the way to the clubhouse. And into the Nelson record book.
For Bowditch, the glory days at TPC Las Colinas are far removed from the early struggles in his professional career. He once played regularly on the Troppo Tour in Australia, sleeping in tents between rounds with a friend to save money. After making only two of 22 cuts in events on the 2006 PGA Tour, Bowditch lost his tour card, battled depression and almost drowned in a suicide attempt before he was discovered by his then-girlfriend.
Bowditch underwent treatment for depression, improved his game and returned to the PGA Tour on a full-time basis for the 2011 season. He capped that season with his marriage to Amanda.
“My personal life, it’s a closed door. But it’s built me into the person I am today,” Bowditch said.
Sunday’s triumph, worth $1,278,000, marked his second tour victory. He also won at the 2014 Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.
But there is no question his career highlight unfolded Sunday, at the same venue where he married Amanda Yarussi Bowditch, a former TV producer for Fox Sports. Bowditch had a slight catch in his throat as he reflected on Sunday’s photo shoot with the tournament trophy at the 18th green.
“Taking photos on that green today, it’s definitely the second-best time I’ve had on that green since we got married,” Bowditch said. “She’s my best friend in the world.”
Rest assured, Sunday’s celebration photo at No. 18 will be a welcomed addition to the Bowditch family album.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760
Final leader board
-18 Steven Bowditch
-14 Charley Hoffman
-14 Jimmy Walker
-14 Scott Pinckney
-13 Zach Johnson
-12 Brandt Snedeker
-11 Dustin Johnson
-7 Jordan Spieth