Golf

First Tour win keeps Brown on high

bspear@thestate.comMarch 14, 2013 

He began his second season on the PGA Tour in January with “conditional status,” a kind way of saying he ranked near the back of the line on tournament entry lists.

Thursday, two months later, Scott Brown joined Matt Kuchar and Michael Thompson in the Tampa Bay Championship’s featured pairing that included winners of three of the Tour’s most recent events. He shot a 1-under 70.

“I’m still a little bit excited,” Brown said earlier this week before leaving his Aiken home for Tampa. “Winning (the Puerto Rico Open, an event played opposite the WGC tourney at Doral) is a dream come true for a guy who has been playing golf since I was 4 or 5 years old.”

He jumped from “conditional status” to a full exemption through the 2014-15 season, a berth in the PGA and Players championships and moved to 28th in the FedEx Cup standings.

“I’m not surprised he won, and he’s not through playing well this year and in the future,” said Michael Carlisle, Brown’s coach at USC Aiken. “He has the ability to win majors, and once he learns the courses, he will be a very solid performer for a long time.”

Brown, who will be 30 in May, earned his first PGA title in the best way, with a final-hole birdie. He teed off on No. 18 tied with Jordan Spieth, who had finished, at 19-under and one stroke behind Fabian Gomez. But Gomez bogeyed the par-5 and Brown capitalized.

“I like the class he showed,” Carlisle said. “One of the first things he said was recognizing (Gomez’s) misfortune on the final hole. His showing empathy was very classy and also very typical of Scott. That’s the way he is.”

In a way, Brown called his success. After his tie for 30th at Pebble Beach in his only PGA Tour start of the year prior to Puerto Rico, he declared his game in good shape and looked forward to the Puerto Rico tournament, an event in which he finished fifth a year ago.

Brown finished 148th in earnings in a feast-or-famine 2012, his rookie year. He earned three top-10s, but he also missed 16 cuts in 24 starts. He lost one payday by withdrawing from the Greenbrier tourney before the final round to race home for the birth of Ellie, the first child for him and wife Allison.

Brown grew in Augusta, moved to North Augusta for high school and starred on USC Aiken’s national championship teams. He earned his place on the 2012 PGA Tour by finishing eighth in earnings on the 2011 Nationwide Tour, capping the year with a second-place finish in the Tour championship.

Since the Puerto Rico event did not carry full FedEx Cup points, the perks did not include an invitation to the Masters.

“Earning (a spot in the Masters) is something to work on,” he said. “Since I grew up in Augusta about 500 yards from Augusta National, I know all about it and obviously that’s a tournament everybody wants to play.”

He will follow Tampa Bay with a stop at Arnold Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill. But for a guy who loves to play at every opportunity, having exempt status creates a “problem.”

To remain fresh rather that following his have-clubs-will-play-every-week philosophy, “I have to make a schedule,” he said.

Lots of pro golfers would like to have that “problem.”

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