With confidence, Wagner claims title

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With confidence, Wagner claims title

HONOLULU - Johnson Wagner worked so hard in the offseason that he told friends he was going to win early in the year, and he lived up to those boasts by claiming the Sony Open title on Sunday.

Wagner played bogey-free over the last 12 holes, a winning recipe on a tough day at Waialae, and closed with a 3-under 67 to pull away from a half-dozen contenders and take the title.

“I was definitely telling people to expect something early this year, which is a nice feeling,’’ Wagner said. “Usually, my confidence is low. I’m kind of shy in a little shell. And for some reason, I just had way more energy and confidence going into this year.’’

Wagner was among six players who had a share of the lead at some point in the final round. He was the only guy to stay there, and wound up with a two-shot win over Carl Pettersson, Sean O’Hair, Harrison Frazar and Charles Howell III.

Frazar took the outright lead with a birdie on 10th hole, but had to settle for pars the rest of the way for a 67. Howell was paired with Wagner and stayed with him until a three-putt par on the par-5 ninth. He birdied the last hole for a 69. O’Hair narrowly missed a 30-foot eagle putt on the last hole and shot 67, while Pettersson overcame a double bogey on his second hole with four birdies on the last six for a 67.

They all tied for second behind Wagner, who seized control with a 9-iron into the 15th that was pin-high, just off the green. He rolled that in for birdie, and then didn’t come close to making a mistake until he nearly missed a tap-in par on the 18th.

Coming into the year, Wagner had only seven top 10s - including two wins - in 139 tournaments. He had never made it to the Tour Championship and played in only four majors.

But what a transformation. Along with his work ethic in the offseason, he began jotting notes and goals into a notebook, using the green cover he received in 2008 from his lone Masters appearance.

“I love being out here. There’s so many great players,’’ he said. “But why are they any better? Why are the people in the top 50 better than me? I’ve always struggled a little bit with believing in myself.’’

As for that mustache getting so much attention?

“Kind of made a deal with myself in December that if I was to get into the Masters, then I was going to keep the mustache for at least this year,’’ he said. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, is it a Movember mustache? Well, it’s December, time to shave it.’ I said, look, this is not a one-month mustache. This is potentially a 10-year mustache.’

Jeff Maggert and Matt Every, tied for the lead going into the last day, collapsed early. Every was 4 over through six holes and finished with a 72. Maggert missed a slew of short putts and shot 74. AP
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