John Rollins' best friend was his driver, but it didn't hurt to have a buddy from Texas playing alongside him at the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open. It wasn't easy trying to shake the monkey off his back after he squandered the lead five times before when he topped the leaderboard heading into a final round.
Rollins posted a 17-under 271 to claim his third victory on the PGA Tour by three strokes over Jeff Quinney and Martin Laird.
As he watched a six-stroke lead at the turn shrink to only two with three holes to play, Rollins said he was glad his playing partner was Ryan Palmer, who lives about a mile from him in the suburbs of Fort Worth and whose families attend each other's children's birthday parties.
"I think that helped a little bit, keeping me a little bit more relaxed," said Rollins, who tied for second at Reno last year. "We chatted a little bit and had a good time out there, the best we could. Fortunately enough it was my day and my week."
Rollins, who tied the course record with a second-round 62 at Montreux Golf and Country Club, offset an early double bogey with a chip-in eagle at the par-5 11th on Sunday. He bogeyed three of the next four holes but notched a critical birdie on the par-5 17th, then got up and down from off the green on No. 18 for an even 72.
"It was a hang-on kind of day," Rollins said. "I had to battle a lot of emotions."
"After I bogeyed 15, I sort of kicked myself in the butt and told myself I'm not going to let this tournament get away from me. Luckily, we ran out of holes and we came out on top."
Laird made a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 66 and a tie with Quinney, who also shot a 66 Sunday with six birdies to post a 14-under 274. Joe Ogilvie (71) was fourth at 13 under.
"It's nice to birdie the last," Laird said. "The difference between (second and third) is a whole bunch of money and a whole bunch of FedExCup points."
Quinney said it was some of the best golf he has played since a six-week layoff in the spring because of a herniated disk.
"I was just focused and staying in the present with what I was doing and I pretty much thought Rollins was running away with it," he said. "I didn't know he made a couple of bogeys late."
Palmer, who started the day four off the pace, had four bogeys and two birdies on the front nine. He shot a 73 to join Alex Cejka (67) and Kevin Na (68) at 12 under.
Rod Pampling finished another stroke back after a 67 on Sunday that included an eagle on the par-5 11th, where he holed out from a bunker in the third round for a quadruple-bogey 9.
Rollins, who won the 2002 Canadian Open and 2006 B.C. Open, was the runner-up earlier this year at the Buick Invitational and Honda Classic. The $540,000 winner's check pushed his season earnings beyond the $2 million mark for only the second time in nine years on tour for a career total of more than $12 million.
Rollins sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the second hole, but he double bogeyed the par-5 fourth after he had to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie in the right rough off the tee. He chipped within 3 feet from 44 yards out on the 616-yard, par-5 fifth and made the birdie putt to make the turn at 36.
"I was relieved to get off the front nine even par," Rollins said.
On the 584-yard 11th, he drove 351 yards down the right side of the fairway, hit his approach 212 yards to just short of the green and chipped in from nearly 40 feet to get to 19 under.
"Once that happened you kind of feel like, `Well now, we're OK. Let's settle down and let's finish this thing off,'" Rollins said.
But he followed that with consecutive bogeys, hitting short in a bunker on the par-3 12th then hitting his approach over the green on the par-4 13th before two-putting from 9 feet.
"I decided to make it interesting again," he said.
He hit his drive 348 yards on the 477-yard, par-4 15th but his second shot came up short in a deep bunker on the short side and his next went 25 feet past the hole resulting in "another silly bogey" to drop to 16 under _ ahead by only two _ with three holes to play.
Rollins hit over a pond to 16 feet on the par-3 16th, but his birdie try slid just past the left edge of the hole. After a 10-minute wait on the tee, he drove 333 yards in the middle of the par-5 17th. His second shot landed on the left fringe 34 feet from the cup to set up a two-putt birdie that gave him a three-stroke lead.
"That was much more comfortable than going to 18 ahead by only one shot or even tied," he said.