- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- To Hudson Swafford's credit, he called his own shot. It just so happened to be the shot of his life.
Just as Swafford predicted to his caddie, the former Georgia standout chipped in out of the sand for birdie Sunday on the 72nd hole -- the shot that helped Swafford finish with a course-record 9-under 62 and win the Nationwide Tour's Stadion Classic at UGA by one stroke over Luke List and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen.
"We talked about it in the fairway," recalled Swafford, who earned his first Nationwide Tour win and became the second consecutive UGA golfer to win the tournament on the Bulldogs' home course, following last year's win by Russell Henley. "I was like, 'I'm going to hole this bunker shot. It's going to go in.' It was like, 'We have to make this if we want to have a chance.' Talking about it and doing it are two different things."
In truth, the shot was not particularly difficult for Swafford, a strong bunker player. His second shot on 18 hit the lip of the bunker to the front left of the green and trickled back into the sand. But he had an excellent lie atop the sand, allowing him to make a run at the pin approximately 30 feet away.
Although the shot was uphill enough that he couldn't see the cup, Swafford's shot went straight toward its target. It ricocheted off the flagstick a foot above the ground and fell directly into the hole, setting off a massive roar from the partisan supporters surrounding the 18th green.
"I heard it hit the pin and then I heard everybody just go nuts so I just had a feeling when I went up there and saw it disappeared," said Swafford, who birdied the final three holes to finish at 17 under. "I don't know, I just kind of blacked out to be honest with you. I didn't expect it, but I was pretty fired up when it was in the hole."
Swafford and List were tied at 16 under before the bunker shot, but List was also five groups behind the Swafford-Kevin Foley pairing, so he had several holes left to move up or down the leaderboard after Swafford's chip-in.
He temporarily joined Swafford at 17 under when he birdied the par-5 17th, but a disastrous second shot on the final hole proved to be his undoing. List hit his drive into the rough down the right side of the 18th fairway and clipped the limb of a pine tree as he tried to cut his approach back toward the green.
The ball carried only about 40 yards and left List with a nearly impossible third shot out of the pine straw, and he missed well short and left, forcing an eventual bogey.
"I knew where I was and knew what I had to do," List said. "I thought I could pull off the shot and just clipped a limb and that left me in an even tougher spot. I was nervous, but I felt like I could make par from where I was. Unfortunately I just left myself really almost impossible [shots] there."
Playing in the group behind List, Janzen hardly seemed poised to make a move when he made the turn at 1 over Sunday. And yet the longtime PGA Tour star shot a scorching 29 on the back nine, birdieing seven of the last nine holes.
"I was hitting it good enough that I thought I could birdie any of the holes, but I wasn't thinking I was going to birdie all the holes," said Janzen, who said he narrowly missed birdies on Nos. 10 and 13, the two holes where he didn't score on the back nine. "Walking off 8, I just jokingly made the comment that, 'Well, I could still shoot 60 if I birdie in.' I hadn't made a birdie yet and I was basically less than an inch from doing that."
The tie for second is Janzen's best finish since placing second at the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament in 2003 -- a stretch of 218 PGA Tour and two Nationwide Tour starts.
One by one, the remaining groups rolled in, with the top contenders still needing to mount a major charge in the final few holes to catch Swafford. Florida grad Billy Horschel parred the final three holes to finish at 15 under, two strokes out of the lead, and 54-hole leader Tyrone Van Aswegen birdied only one of the last six holes to finish at 14 under and allow Swafford to finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"I couldn't have drawn it up any better," said Swafford, who claimed a $99,000 winner's check and moved from 61st to seventh on the Nationwide Tour money list with $122,123 this season. "It could have been a little easier on me if I'd just made like a two-footer on the last hole. But the way it happened was just a dream come true."
1dEthan Sherwood Strauss