At different points in yesterday's final round of the $1.5 million Constellation Energy Classic, Des Smyth and Doug Tewell saw their names on top of the leader boards at Hayfields Country Club. There was only one problem - at the end, when it counted, both players had slipped below Larry Nelson.
Smyth, the 50-year-old Champions Tour rookie from Ireland, had a one-stroke lead at 8-under par when he birdied the par-3 eighth hole. But after missing at least three birdie chances on the subsequent five holes, Smyth made bogeys on the par-3 14th and par-4 15th to fall out of contention.
Tewell, who had come into the round trailing Nelson and the two other second-round co-leaders, Jay Sigel and Jim Dent, by three shots, played the first 15 holes in 5 under par and had a one-shot lead at 9 under going into the par-4 17th. But Tewell made bogeys on the last two holes.
That left him at 7-under par 209, two strokes behind Nelson and tied for second with Dent. Smyth finished tied for third with Sigel and Sam Torrance of Scotland at 6-under-par 210. It turned into the Consternation Classic for Smyth and Tewell.
"It's a little test," said Smyth, who shot 1-over-par 72. "And I didn't pass."
Smyth is still looking for his first Champions Tour victory.
Smyth wouldn't attribute his back-nine collapse to a case of fatigue, given that this was the last of six straight tournaments before he returned to his home outside Dublin. But he admitted that a couple of those short, birdie putts he missed, including a 6-footer on the par-3 11th and a 5-footer on 13, took their toll.
It got so bad that Smyth, after missing the green at the par-4 14th and making bogey, missed a 2-foot putt for par on the par-4 15th.
"My mind wasn't even there," he said later. "It was hard to refocus [after missing those putts]. I was really teetering."
Tewell looked to be in total control when he rolled in a 25-footer for birdie on the 13th to take a share of the lead with Smyth and Nelson, then made a 15-footer to briefly take sole possession of the lead. (Nelson would make a birdie there a few minutes later to tie for the lead.)
Tewell's problems began when he hit a drive a bit fat on the par-4 17th. He left his approach shot short of the green, hit a poor chip, then missed a 10-footer for par to fall out of a share of the lead with Nelson. Tewell said that being in the hunt again got the best of him.
"I hit three bad shots," he said. "That was the only time I felt tense."
The bogey he made on the final hole was the result of knowing he needed to birdie the monstrous par-5 to force a playoff with Nelson. After hitting his approach to within 15 feet, he rammed his next putt 3 feet past and missed the next for bogey.
"I wasn't going to leave it short," Tewell said of his first putt. "I didn't care what it cost me."
It was reminiscent of last year at Hayfields when Tewell closed an otherwise sparkling round of 67 by three-putting the final hole and finishing tied for second, one stroke behind J.C. Snead. Tewell shot 69 yesterday.
"I've got a bad taste right now," said Tewell, 54, who was seeking his seventh win on the senior tour and second this year. "They tell me that if you can't win, finishing second is good. But finishing second stinks."