Sam Saunders took another step toward carving out his own identity Sunday, falling just short of his first PGA Tour victory.
Following a final-round 68, Saunders lost a five-way playoff to champion Alex Cejka at the Puerto Rico Open, the Tour's alternate-field event running opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
After starting the day three shots back and in a tie for seventh, Saunders made five birdies against a lone bogey.
In the playoff, Saunders appeared to be in the driver's seat after his second shot at the par-5 18th sliced around a palm tree and finished just off the front of the green. But Saunders failed to two-putt from the collar, missing an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a par, and failing to match Cejka.
A Web.com Tour graduate now with PGA Tour status, Saunders spoke to Golf Channel in October about wanting to make his own name in the golf world, rather than only being known as Arnold Palmer's gradson. This season is Saunders' first on Tour after playing in 21 events via sponsor exemptions dating back to 2006.
The 27-year-old had never previously finished higher than T-15 in a Tour event and had either missed the cut or withdrawn in each of his last seven events since the McGladrey Classic in October.
A win in Puerto Rico would have earned Saunders a two-year exemption on Tour and an invitation to the PGA Championship.