Golf

Austin feels right at home in Mississippi

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD 
 Woody Austin tees off during the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic Pro-Am on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at Fallen Oak.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD Woody Austin tees off during the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic Pro-Am on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at Fallen Oak. SUN HERALD

SAUCIER -- Three years ago, Woody Austin earned his fourth PGA Tour victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Madison.

He wouldn't mind returning to the winner's circle Sunday afternoon in his latest stop to the state.

Austin should be considered one of the contenders at this week's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak. His quick start to the 2016 season with the PGA Tour Champions is the reason why Austin won the Tour's last stop at the Tucson Conquistadores Classic on March 18-20. His one-shot victory over Jim Carter vaulted him to fifth on the Tour money list this season.

Austin, who lives in Wichita, Kan., said he got off to a slow start in the season's first two events before everything came together in the desert last month.

"Living in Kansas (during the offseason), it takes a little while to get things going early in the year," he said. "The weekend before Tucson, I spent some time with my sons earlier that week at Pebble Beach (Calif.) and by the time that tournament rolled around, everything just clicked."

The key hole in the final round was the par-5 15th hole as Austin holed out for an eagle from a greenside bunker.

That shot gave him a bit of a cushion as he bogeyed the par-4 final hole after his drive went left into the water.

What made the win in Tucson even more special was that his youngest son, Peyton, was his caddy that week.

"My oldest son (Parker) was supposed to caddy that week, but he got sick," Austin said. "For some reason, the pressure was just off that week. With me, it is just a matter of making enough putts (in order to win). That's what happened that week and I played really well coming on in."

Austin's win in 2013 in Madison was the fourth of his PGA Tour career. His previous wins were at the 1995 and 2004 Buick Opens in Michigan and the 2007 St. Jude Classic in Memphis. He said one reason for his success in tournaments in the South is the presence of Bermuda greens on many courses here. He was born in Tampa and played at the University of Miami.

"Being from Florida, I'm used to putting on those," he said. "But that's the way things go for me. "I played really well for four straight days up there. "I had a chance to win in regulation on 18 (the win came in a one-hole playoff with Cameron Beckman and Daniel Summerhays), but I wasn't aggressive enough on that hole. I just played really well the entire week."

Austin got his first look at Fallen Oak this year during Thursday's pro-am and said it is one of his favorite courses on the Tour.

"It is one of the real good tests out here," he said. "It is one of the few courses we play that has a little bit of a bite to it. You don't have to worry about shooing a 66 out here in order to win."

The MGRC kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday and runs through Sunday. The first round of the MGRC will be televised on the Golf Channel on a delay beginning at 8:30 p.m.

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