Victory at golf’s highest levels is always sweetest when the player understands what it is like to fall from the spotlight. That’s something Shaw Charity Classic winner Carlos Franco knows all too well.
Franco, 51, shot two outstanding rounds of 7-under par on the weekend to hold off challengers Michael Allen and Bernhard Langer and win the Shaw tournament with a score of 18-under par. Franco made $352,500 for the victory.
It is a remarkable success for a player who did not have any significant earnings in professional golf for most of the last five years. In that time Franco, from Paraguay, played a wide variety of tours, from the PGA Tour, where he last made a cut in 2010, as well as in golf’s minor leagues, including PGA Tour Latinoamerica, and the Web长沙桑拿 Tour. He had very limited success at any of them and struggled with his putting throughout.
All of that made the win easy for a player who admitted he had lost his game for several years.
“I think this is more sweet now,” Franco said after he rolled in a birdie on the final hole to win by two. “I lost my game for a couple of years, and to come back this week, I hope my focus comes back and my game too.”
At one point, now more than 15 years in the past, Carlos Franco was one of golf’s bright lights. He won three times in 1999 and 2000, making nearly $3 million in those two years, and played on a couple of Presidents Cup teams, an incredible success for a man who grew up in poverty. Franco hails from Paraguay, where he was raised as part of a family of nine sharing a one-room house with a dirt floor. His father was a golf superintendent and caddie, and all five of Franco’s brothers became professional golfers, though none matched his success.
Franco credited some of his Shaw victory to golf legend Tom Watson, who he played with on Saturday. Watson, who turned 67 on Sunday, shot his age during the final round, and Franco said the hall of famer was inspirational.
“Winning on the Champions Tour isn’t easy because everyone out here is a winner,” he said.
American Michael Allen was right on Franco’s heels, shooting 7-under in the final round to come up two short. Allen was hoping to pull off a miracle on the 18th—a par 5—but a poor drive meant he had to lay up, and his putt wouldn’t fall. Still, Allen praised Franco’s success.
“You only have control over so much,” Allen said. “It is great to see Carlos playing so great—he’s a wonderful guy and a great player and so it is nice to see him back on his game and play some good golf.”
For his part, Franco seemed surprised by how low some of the scores were in cool conditions, with the wind increasing in the afternoon. He made eight birdies in the final round to shoot 63, and said he was worried about Langer, the tour’s top player. Defending champion Jeff Maggert was also in the final group, but struggled with his putter after shooting 63 on consecutive days. Maggert shot 74, 11 shots above his score on Saturday.
“Bernhard pushed me a little bit,” said Franco. “This guy doesn’t miss a shot. I respect him and I hope he respects my game today.”
The top Canadian in the field was Rod Spittle, who finished in a tie for 14th after shooting a final round of 68. Spittle, who grew up in Ontario and remains a Canadian citizen despite living in the U.S. for much of his adult life, praised the tournament, saying it continues to be one of the top events on tour.
“It is obviously a terrific week all the way around,” said Spittle. “I played really well today. I got off to a good start and was pretty solid at 8 or 9-under. So no complaints whatsoever. I hope they invite me back.”