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Len Ziehm On Golf

Homa overcomes 7-stroke deficit to win Rust-Oleum title

Sunday’s final round of the $600,000 Rust-Oleum Championship figured to be a two-man battle. No one was within six strokes of front-runners Josh Teater and Dan Woltman at the start of play and Max Homa was even further back than that.

Homa, though, didn’t see such a result as a foregone conclusion. He started the final round seven strokes behind Teater and played five groups in front of the final twosome.

“But I only had to pass seven people,’’ said Homa and – with some help from Teater – Homa was able to do just that. His final round 67 at Ivanhoe Club led to a one-stroke win with Teater and John Mallinger sharing runner-up honors.

The final leaderboard for the only PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament in the Chicago area this year had Homa at 13-under-par 275. Teater (75 on Sunday) and Mallinger (69) were one stroke back and Woltman (73) two back and alone in fourth place.

Homa’s plan to secure the $108,000 first prize was to go low on the front nine, the harder side to put up a splashy number. He succeeded, chipping in for birdie at No. 9 to complete a 4-under 32. That brought him within a shot of the lead and put the pressure on Teater and Woltman.

Teater, the leader after the second and third rounds, had a three-stroke lead on Monday qualifier Woltman to start the day and it was gone after seven holes. Woltman pulled even when Teater made his second bogey at No. 7. Teater regained the lead with a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 9 and then the shootout was on with Homa very much in the picture as well.

Those three took turns sharing the lead until Homa holed a 40-foot putt for his second birdie in a row at No. 15. Teater was still his main challenger at that point but Woltman – despite back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 11 and 12 – and Mallinger, who went eight holes without a par (one eagle, three birdies, four bogeys from Nos. 8-15), stayed in the mix.

“My goal was to make (Teater) play hard those last three holes,’’ said Homa, who gave his rivals some hope when he hit his tee shot far right at the par-3 17th and made bogey. That put Homa and Teater together at the top of the leaderboard.

Teater got through Nos. 16 and 17 with pars and was in great position off the tee on the finishing hole to make a birdie for an outright win without the need for a playoff.

“I wasn’t great all day, and I just wanted to have a chance,’’ said Teater, meaning a birdie putt, but he didn’t get it. His 8-iron approach from 160 yards sailed long right and Teater couldn’t get up and down for par.

“The ball was a little below my feet (on his second shot) and I started it further right than I wanted,‘’ said Teater. “I had the right distance. It was a learning experience.’’

Sunday’s round ended the Web.com Tour’s first Chicago visit since a seven-year run at The Glen Club came to an end in 2008. Three players will local ties qualified for all 72 holes. Illinois alum Brian Campbell, a Web.com rookie, shot 70 and finished in a tie for ninth. Deerfield’s Vince India carded a 75 and was in a tie for 33rd and India’s former Iowa teammate Brian Bullington struggled in with an 80 to finish in a tie for 56th.

Homa, 25, was the NCAA champion on a California team that was the best in collegiate golf in 2013. He won on the Web.com Tour the following year, in the BMW Charity Pro-Am, and was a consistent player all of this campaign. He’s missed only one cut in nine starts but Sunday marked only his second victory on the circuit.