- Associated Press - Monday, November 15, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. (AP) - One surged from behind to run away with the tournament. The other coughed it up and settled for second. Then both claimed victory.

Only at Disney World.

Robert Garrigus came back from five strokes down in the final round to win the Children’s Miracle Network Classic on Sunday, knocking Roland Thatcher to second in a bizarre ending that left each feeling like a winner.

Thatcher had to at least finish alone in second place to vault into the top 125 in earnings _ the cutoff for full status next year _ and keep his PGA Tour card. After he collapsed with three bogeys on the back nine, including on Nos. 16 and 17, he made a pressure-packed putt from 5 feet on the final hole to finish a solo second.

Just enough to keep his job.

“You’ll never see a happier guy who just vomited away a tournament,” Thatcher said.

The top two men know all about heartbreak.

Earlier this year, Garrigus made triple bogey with a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole at Memphis. The stunning meltdown allowed Lee Westwood to win his only title this year in a playoff victory that helped the Englishman earn the No. 1 ranking.

That loss was the only reason Garrigus was even at Disney.

He began the tournament 122nd in earnings and needed a strong finish to stay inside the top 125. Dozens more were either in the same situation or trying to move inside the cut line.

Garrigus shot an 8-under 64 in the final round for his first career victory on tour. He had eight birdies and no bogeys to finish at 21 under for the tournament, three shots ahead of Thatcher.

“It feels great to be able to close this one off and figuratively shut everybody up about Memphis,” Garrigus said.

Second place might even provide Thatcher some redemption, too.

He only needed to make par on the final hole in the final round of qualifying school in 2001 in West Palm Beach to earn his card. Instead, his approach shot bounced off the cart path and onto the clubhouse roof and it took him about three more years to reach the tour.

A similar disaster was avoided this time _ barely.

After blowing his four-stroke lead on the field, Thatcher got another chance to save his full status when Spencer Levin _ then tied in second with Thatcher _ bogeyed the final hole, leaving his chip shot short and missing an 11-foot putt.

For Thatcher, it came down to one putt for a full-time spot on tour next year.

“I couldn’t imagine having a more stressful moment in my life,” he said.

He examined the green for a few minutes to analyze the 5-foot putt. He moved over his ball, stepped back, glanced at the green, then moved over the ball again. He struck the ball crisply and watched it roll in for the best 72 of his life, barely pumping his fist and letting out a huge sigh of relief.

“It was obvious with my nerves the way they were, if I started thinking about what that putt meant, there was pretty much no chance I was going to shake one in the hole,” he said. “So I managed to keep focused on the routine. Knowing I made a good stroke and to see the ball take off on the line I wanted to and knowing that there was nothing between there and the hole to stop it from going in was a great feeling.”

Several others also faced pressure to keep their tour cards.

But after all the jostling for the final spots, Thatcher joined Mark Wilson (123) and Michael Connell (115) as the only players this week to jump inside the top 125 after starting the week outside of it. Wilson was already exempt for next year with his win at Mayakoba in 2009. They bumped Troy Matteson, Woody Austin and Michael Allen.

Troy Merritt, who finished at No. 125, won the $1 million Kodak Challenge in a playoff with Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley. The contest designates a hole at 30 tournaments and keeps score throughout the year.

“Emotions are all over the place,” Merritt said.

Garrigus can relate.

In Memphis, he knocked his final tee shot into the woods, then hit one off a tree _ when he probably should have just chipped out _ and eventually had a triple bogey. Then he bogeyed the first playoff hole.

At Disney, Garrigus‘ final tee shot found a patch of rough far left. Fortunately, the ball kicked back right, rolled onto the fringe and he eventually had an easier approach to save par. Earlier on the ninth hole, his tee shot also landed in a tree before trickling out for a clearer shot to the green.

“I got lucky, and it hit a tree and came back in,” Garrigus said. “And you got to have that to win. I really haven’t had that yet.”

Garrigus admitted his collapse at Memphis at first left him numb.

But he had been through far worse, overcoming a drug and alcohol addiction more than six years ago. Garrigus spent a month in rehab, gained 25 pounds to get his strength back and _ with a cleared head _ moved from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour.

“So, I really don’t care (about Memphis),” said Garrigus, who earned $846,000 with the win. “This is just golf. I have a family that loves me. It’s easier for me to go out there and say, ‘Hey, whatever.’

“If Memphis didn’t happen, I don’t know if this would have happened.”

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