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Cannon explodes on back nine to win NM Open

Blake Cannon, above, was five strokes behind Edward Olson with six holes to go Thursday before making his winning charge to take the NM Open and the $14,000 first-place prize. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

(Click here for the final results.)

From 178 yards out, Blake Cannon’s approach shot on the 18th green Thursday floated down during the final round of the New Mexico Open at the Paradise Hills Golf Course.

“I was trying to get it within 10 or 15 feet and have an uphill putt,” Cannon said.

Instead it stuck and stopped a mere two inches from the cup.

Cannon entered the final hole tied with second-round leader Edward Olson, each at 12-under.

“You can’t ask for a better putt to win than a couple of inches,” Cannon said. “I hit it pretty good. I was just trying to knock it down. When it was in the air, you’re just sitting there hoping it’s going to be close. I knew it was within three feet, but I didn’t know it was that close. Obviously, I was really relieved to get up there and see that it was a tap in.”

Cannon’s birdie on the 161-yard, par-4 18th capped a remarkable comeback.

With six holes to go in the three-round New Mexico Open, he sat five strokes behind second-round leader Edward Olson.

But Olson was about to embark on a brutal stretch of holes.

He bogeyed holes 13 and 14, while Cannon birdied 14 and all of a sudden that lead was down to two strokes.

“I missed a couple of shots,” Olson said. “I was a little off on a couple of shots. Obviously I had a rough stretch on the back. I can’t be doing that when I’m trying to close out tournaments. These guys are too good.”

And while Cannon made the crucial shot on the 18th to win it, Olson made just as crucial an error on the 16th to fully open the door.

“If you get on the wrong side of some of these holes you can make mistakes,” Cannon said. “And that’s what ended up happening. I knew I wasn’t out of it. It was kind of a one-horse race at that point.”

On the par-3, 206-yard hole, Olson left his tee shot wide left, splashing it on the beach. And his wedge flopped right back into the hazard before getting out with a shot that rolled well past the pin. He finished the hole with a double bogey and just like that it was tied heading into the final two holes.

“I made a careless error on the par-3 16,” Olson said. “I missed it in the worst possible spot and then I compound the error by leaving it in the bunker.”

Both players birdied No. 17, setting up the pivotal final hole.

Olson actually was better off the tee, but had to watch as Cannon nearly holed out.

“I knew I had to do the same to have a chance, but more power to him,” Olson said. “That was a great shot to close the deal. I just didn’t give myself a good enough look on 18 to keep it going.”

For Cannon, it was his first significant win, earning a $14,000 check, while Olson ended up tied for second with Mark Baldwin.

“I came close in Utah a couple of weeks ago,” Cannon said. “I had a chance with a couple of holes so it feels nice of kind of back up for that. Down the stretch I was able to make some swings whereas in Utah I wasn’t.”

As for local players, last year’s winner, Sam Saunders, finished with a 9-under 201 to tie for sixth with Tim Madigan. David Muttit was tied for 11th at 8-under, Wil Collins was tied for 14th at 7-under, and former PGA player Notah Begay III, who was among the last players to make the cut, shot a final-round 67 to tie for 35th at 1-under.

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