Lanto Griffin Wins Tour’s Nashville Open

  • NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lanto Griffin became the first player since 2004 on the Tour to win after making the cut on the number with weekend rounds of 62-68 at the Nashville Golf Open Benefitting the Snedeker Foundation. After narrowly missing a 12-foot birdie putt for the win on the 72nd hole, Griffin holed an uphill, 20-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Abraham Ancer for his first career Tour victory.

    “’Bout as surprised as you guys are,” Griffin said. “Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes it’s just your week. I got a lot of good breaks yesterday. I think I played the front in 1-under on Friday to make the cut on the number. I was more nervous on the putt on Friday to make the cut than I was on any putt today. That’s the truth. To make the cut on the number and win, that’s kind of a dream come true.”

    Griffin is only the third player in Tour history to make the cut on the number and win, with the last being Justin Bolli at the 2004 Chattanooga Classic. The results hadn’t been trending in the direction of a Griffin victory.

    Entering this week, the Virginia Commonwealth grad had made just four cuts in 11 starts with a T19 at the Air Capital Classic Supporting Wichita’s Youth two weeks ago as his best finish entering this week. He admitted he would have “been happy with a top-20,” but he got a lot more than that, moving up to 21st on the Regular Season money list with the victory. The $99,000 winner’s check is almost nine times as much as he’d earned for the season entering this week ($11,651).

    “It’s not going to sink in for a while, but I didn’t know if I could win on the Web(.com Tour),” Griffin said. “I haven’t always been the nicest to myself. I know I can play at least on this Tour next year, so the rest of the year is going to be a blast.”

     When the horn blew the second time to suspend play Sunday, Griffin was just a shot back of the lead but was hoping the rules staff would call the tournament and he’d finish T2, where he’d entered the day.

    “I didn’t want to go back out. Not one bit of me wanted to go back out,” Griffin said. “I wanted them to call it, and I wanted tie second. That would have put me close to having my spot in the Web(.com Tour) Finals. Not that I was scared to go back out, but there are so many good players and there was a five-way tie for the lead. I was one back at the time, and there were five guys tied with me. So who wouldn’t?”

    Lucky for him, the skies opened and so did his path to the winner’s circle. After returning to his waiting shot in the 11th fairway, he promptly birdied that hole and Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to take sole possession of the lead for the first time.

    With the lead in hand, he blocked his tee shot into the right trees at the 16th, leaving him in a precarious spot that had bogey or double written all over it. He produced a miracle escape, though, with an 8-iron to 15 feet on his way to saving a par.

    “The shot that won me the tournament was the shot on 16 out of the trees. I could have made any number there and that will be the best shot I’ve ever hit, hands down,” Griffin said. “I had to go under the first branches and then over, but I had a branch in my back swing so I had to choke up to the Golf Pride and it was 180 so I hit an 8-iron. I would have been happy if it came up 50 yards short and in the rough. That thing came out just barely under and it went right through this little ‘V’ and right at the flag. It was lucky, but it was 100 percent the best shot I’ve ever hit.”

    Ancer, in the group ahead, didn’t make Griffin’s life easy, birdieing the par-3 17th to tie the lead, and both headed to the 72nd hole with a share of the lead. After Ancer hit his approach to 15 feet and narrowly missed the birdie putt to post 16-under, Griffin needed a birdie for the win. Unfortunately, his 10-foot birdie didn’t cooperate, hitting the right lip and making a full 90-degree lip out, sending him to his knees and back to the 10th hole for the first playoff hole.

    “I didn’t think it had a chance to miss,” Griffin said. “I felt good over it, hands felt fine. It just started right on my line, and I thought it was going to go in right center and it caught that high side and lipped out.”

    It might have been the only putt that had a chance all week that didn’t drop for Griffin. Despite being second-to-last in greens in regulation among the 68 players that made the weekend, he won because of the putter. He averaged only 23.75 putts per round and led the field in putting. It’s the first time all season on the Tour that a player has needed less than 100 putts for a four-day event.

    “I felt so good with the putter Saturday and Sunday,” Griffin said. “When I get hot with the putter, I feel really confident.”

    With his runner-up finish, Ancer moves up to 11th on the Tour money list and walks away disappointed but pleased with back-to-back 67s on the weekend.

    “Man, I gave it a great run. Obviously, you always want to get the ‘W’ if you have the chance, but I’m really proud of how I played today with the rain delays,” Ancer said. “Every time I came back I made a bogey, I was just a little antsy and didn’t get up and down for par there when I missed the green coming back from the delays, but I bounced back really well every time. I’m really happy with my performance, and solo second puts me in the 160 (thousands) or so, so that’s encouraging.”

    Guillermo Pereira and Taylor Moore finished T3 after both made birdies at the last to temporarily take the clubhouse lead at 15-under 273.