Alexander repeats in record-setting fashion
Defending champion Tyson Alexander definitely has family bragging rights now in the Azalea Invitational golf tournament.
Alexander, a senior at the University of Florida, played the Country Club of Charleston's back nine in 4-under-par Sunday, and with a final-round 66 earned a five-shot victory over Cory Whitsett of Houston, who closed with a 67.
Alexander's 72-hole total of 16-under-par 268 broke the previous Azalea scoring record of 270 held by Jeff Knox (1998) and Webb Simpson (2004). He became the first player since David Eger in 1999-2000 to win back-to-back Azalea titles.
And just as important, he now has twice as many Azalea wins as his
father, University of Florida golf coach and former U.S. Amateur champion Buddy Alexander, who won the 1976 Azalea with a score of 282.
"I haven't talked to him but I'll brag a little bit," Alexander said shortly after winning here for the second straight year. "I hit some good shots and made some putts. It was a lot of fun."
Charleston Southern sophomore Jacobo Pastor and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Bradenton, Fla., tied for third, 13 shots behind Alexander. U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jordan Spieth of Dallas was fifth at 282.
Alexander started the final round with a four-shot lead over Whitsett, a high school senior who is headed to the University of Alabama, and was seven shots ahead of Florida freshman Tommy Mou. But the tournament quickly evolved into a battle between Alexander and Whitsett.
Whitsett delivered the first punch, rolling in four birdies for a front-nine 32, and cut Alexander's lead to one shot as they made the turn.
But the back nine belonged to Alexander. Whitsett three-putted the par-4 10th hole for bogey to fall two behind. Alexander made a six-footer for birdie on the par-3 11th and Whitsett missed a birdie opportunity from four feet, giving Alexander a three-shot cushion.
After both players parred the next hole, Whitsett gained new life with a birdie on the 378-yard, par-13th. Alexander hit his drive within three yards of the green while Whitsett, who laid up with an iron, hit his approach to six feet and made the putt. Alexander's lengthy eagle putt from off the green rolled well past the hole and he missed the birdie try coming back.
Both players birdied the par-4 14th, with Whitsett rolling in a 50-footer that had to climb a large ridge and Alexander trickling in a downhill 15-footer after having to step away because of the gusting wind.
Whitsett lost another shot to Alexander when he three-putted for par on the par-5 15th while Alexander two-putted for birdie. Alexander sewed things up with a birdie from five feet on No. 16, and any hopes Whitsett still had vanished when he three-putted the par-3 17th.
"I would have been a little more nervous if I was playing poorly and not hitting good shots," Alexander said. "I hit a lot of good shots on the front nine.
"I was playing fine on the front nine except for the first hole and I made a bad bogey. (Whitsett) shot 4-under. I really couldn't do much about it. We went to the back nine, and 11 was big. On 13, 14, 15 and 16, I hit a lot of good shots."
Alexander said the Azalea was his final amateur tournament. He'll finish out the college season, then turn professional after the NCAA Tournament.
Whitsett, meanwhile, said he's looking forward to a summer filled with amateur tournaments and getting on to college golf.
"I got off to a good start and made every putt I looked at on the front nine except for one hole," he said. "The back nine, I had a couple of three-putts. I didn't play too bad other than that."