Kris Blanks wins Louisiana Open in playoff

BROUSSARD — For someone who hadn’t played a professional tournament in a year and a half, Kris Blanks showed on Sunday that an altered swing and shoulder surgery may have resurrected a languishing golf career.

Blanks recorded his first tournament victory since 2008 after he finished the morning round with a 9-under-62 and then won on the third playoff hole to capture the Tour’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Country Club.

Brett Stegmaier turned the final round into a playoff after he tied Blanks for the lead at 14-under following seven holes and ended his regulation round with a 3-under-68.

Kyle Reifers, who held a one stroke lead at the end of Saturday’s third round, had an opportunity to craft a three-way playoff, but his drive off the tee on No. 18 dropped into the water, and after taking a penalty stroke, he finished his round with a bogey.

Reifers’ bogey moved him into a third-place tie with Johnathan Randolph — one stroke behind Blanks and Stegmaier at 271.

That created the fourth playoff in Louisiana Open history, and a two-player competition for the $99,000 first place prize money.

Competing on 18, Blanks and Stegmaier both two-putted for par in the first two playoff matchups.

Then, on the third playoff hole, Stegmeier landed his second shot nearly 60 feet from the hole, while Blanks drove his to within 10 feet.

Afterward, Blanks promptly sank his attempt for a birdie after Stegmaier rolled his putt about three feet past the cup.

Blanks said it’s been a struggle since encountering shoulder problems that required rehabilitation and then surgery ironically on March 30 of last year.

His last professional win came in the 2008 Bank of America Open. Then in 2010 he was second iin the PGA Puerto Rico Open and runnerup in the RBC Canadian Open in 2011.

“I haven’t played (in a tournament) in a year and a half, and for my first event since then, this is good,” Blanks said.

Blanks said he redeveloped his golf swing recently after realizing his shoulder problems were affecting his game.

“I worked with a guy in Houston, and because of that, I have made a drastic change in my golf swing. When I got home, I compartmentalized what he told me, and it’s really started to click,” Blanks said.

Blanks said he might have played in this weekend’s PGA Valero Classic in San Antonio, but his first alternate status there was tentative at best.

“I didn’t even have a practice round (at Le Triomphe),” he said. “I drove here from San Antonio here Wednesday at 5:30 in the afternoon. I needed to play some golf and get four rounds under my belt.

“I haven’t played in so long that my feet are blistered, so I wore tennis shoes today,” he continued. “I played so bad the first three days, and I’m on my third putter of the week.”

Blanks started Sunday seven strokes behind Reifers and tied with seven others for 38th.

On his final round, Blanks birdied five of his first eight holes for a 31 on the front. His regulation back nine were also without a bogey as he made four more birdies.

Stegmaier returned to the Tour last year after not competing at that level for nearly five years.

On Sunday, Stegmaier completed his front nine with a 32 and then ended his round with a par-5 bogey on No. 10 and par putts the remainder of the way.

“I thought I played pretty good all day,” he said. “On the last playoff hole, I hit that (approach shot) a little fat to 50 feet. I was really nervous all day, especially having to go three more, but at least you know you hve second locked up.”

Stegmaier said he had mixed emotions about the way his round finished.

“(Runner-up) is a small consolation right now, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s good. My year hasn’t gotten off to that good a start,” said Stegmaier, who earned $59,400.

Reifers, who was Thursday’s first-round co-leader with Ryan Blaum, said he felt betrayed by errant putting.

“I really wobbled out there,” he said. “I had a lot of good putts that didn’t go in and I thought I had a nice rally at the end.”

Reifers finished with three bogeys, including the one on 18.

Randolph, who was Friday’s second-round leader, didn’t experience any bogeys on Sunday, but he didn’t record a birdie past No. 11.

“I had a good start and a chance to get there, but it just never materialized. I did it to myself,” Randolph said.