SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — Just when it seemed like Bernhard Langer had control of the Boeing Classic, he didn’t.
Just when it seemed like John Riegger’s hopes of winning the Boeing Classic were dashed, they weren’t.
And when it seemed like Fred Couples had no hope, he made a gallant last run.
In a topsy-turvy final round Sunday at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, where very little went like one might expect, Riegger defeated the fast-closing John Cook to win by two shots for his first Champions Tour victory.
“This goes down as the biggest win of my career,” said Riegger, who earned $300,000 after finishing at 15-under par.
Couples, the Seattle native, equaled Cook for the best round of the day with a 66, finishing third by himself at 11 under.
Riegger, who turned 50 in June, began the day with a three-shot lead, but he left the ninth hole trailing Langer, the Hall of Famer, by one shot, and was tied for second with Bobby Clampett.
But Langer, the seemingly unflappable German, bogeyed the par-4 11th en route to a back-nine collapse, while Riegger hit his approach to about a foot from the hole.
Riegger, who won twice on the Web.com Tour but never finished better than tied for fifth on the PGA Tour, tapped in for birdie and was back in the lead. He never trailed again, even as Cook and Couples, playing a few groups ahead, were making runs.
“The 11th hole was key, a two-shot swing, but I felt calm and composed all day,” he said. “These guys have beaten me for 30 years, and I knew they were going to make some early birdies. Great players like Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer, they’re not going to be intimidated on the first tee by John Riegger.”
Cook birdied the 15th and 16th holes to momentarily tie Riegger at 12 under. But Riegger, a Champions Tour rookie who looked shaky on the front nine, was rock solid on the back nine. He birdied the par-5 15th with about a 12-foot putt, then hit his approach into the par-4 16th to about 15 feet from the hole and made that for another birdie.
Cook birdied the 18th hole to get to 13 under, but all Riegger had to do to get his first win was make at least a par on the 18th, one of the easiest holes on the course.
Riegger made it difficult on himself by hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker. But he was safely on the green on his third shot, about 20 feet away. He had two putts to win, but he only took one as he made a birdie to cap off the victory in just his fifth Champions Tour event.
“I knew about two feet away, it was going to go in,” he said. “I almost couldn’t believe it.”
Cook thought he needed to get to 13 under to have a chance, which he achieved, and he applauded Riegger for withstanding the pressure and playing the final four holes in 3 under.
“That’s a pretty strong finish for a guy trying to finish off his first (win), so hats off to John,” Cook said. “I know he’s been a battler, never really that much of an exempt player, but always a good player. That’s a good way to finish up trying to capture that first win. It’s not easy.”
Langer, the 2010 Boeing Classic champ, finished in a tie for fourth at 10 under. He played the front nine in 12 under for the tournament and the back nine in 2 over.
Pullman High graduate Kirk Triplett finished tied for 12th at 8 under. Seattle native Rick Fehr finished in 79th at 16 over.
Couples was the leader in the clubhouse when he finished. Even though he was pretty certain 11 under was not going to be good enough, he was happy with his final round and said he enjoyed the week.
“Today was a nice finish,” said Couples, who made four birdies in his final five holes. “That’s about as good as I could have shot.”
It just wasn’t low enough on a day when Riegger persevered and then thrived. In addition to the winner’s check, he also gets a one-year tour exemption.
“My wife will like the check, and I like the exemption,” he said.