MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Harrison Frazar knows he’s supposed to act as if he’s won before. Turns out it’s really tough the first time around, especially for someone who thought he’d missed his chance.
Frazar won his first PGA Tour title in his 355th tournament, beating Robert Karlsson with a par on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday at the St. Jude Classic. He won a month before turning 40 when Karlsson pushed a par-saving putt 3 feet past the hole.
“It was a whirlwind there. This was the first time,” Frazar said. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to keep the seersucker jacket. I don’t know if I’m supposed to carry the trophy. You don’t know who you’re supposed to talk to. I felt bad. I didn’t thank the sponsors. I didn’t thank FedEx. I didn’t thank the volunteers. I was not quite sure really what was happening right then.
“The only tournament that I won in Q-school, you walked in, signed your card in the scoring trailer, and they gave you a pat on the back, ‘Good job.’ You walked out the door. There was nobody there.”
And Frazar had been so ready to quit golf he had plans lined up for a new job at the end of the year.
He turns 40 on July 29, misses his family back in Texas, and is playing this year on a major medical exemption after separate surgeries on his hip and shoulder last summer. Memphis is just the fourth cut he’s made in 10 events, though he just qualified for the upcoming U.S. Open at Congressional.
Now Frazar has the biggest paycheck of his career, taking home $1,008,000. He knows he’ll be playing at least a couple more years now that he has a slot in the Tournament of Champions in Maui in January and in Augusta next April for his first Masters.
“It just shows you how sometimes when you let your guard down or let your expectations soften, you can free yourself up,” Frazar said.
Frazar hadn’t had a chance to share the news with his wife and three children when he talked with reporters. He said his wife likely was stuck in the Dallas airport, flying to meet him at Congressional.
“I’m assuming her phone is either blown up, or she’s trying to get through the airport with three screaming kids,” Frazar said.
Frazar missed a chance to win on the 72nd hole when he made his first bogey of the day. He shot a 3-under 67 to match Karlsson (68) at 13 under. He became the seventh first-time winner on Tour this year and the first to win his first title in Memphis since Dicky Pride in 1994.
“I just wanted to make it interesting,” Frazar joked. “I felt bad for Robert.”
Karlsson led after the second and third rounds, and he has shot below par on his past eight rounds here. Now the Swede has lost in a playoff at the TPC Southwind course for a second straight year, though he said he couldn’t have done much more in what he called a great match.
“He played great, and I played good as well,” Karlsson said. “It’s one of those days where I think most of us had a lot of fun out there. Congratulate him on a great win. He played great in the last round after sort of being injured and stuff like that. He played really well.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Frazar said.
This final round turned into a two-man playoff almost from the opening hole with no one closer than three strokes early, a margin that expanded to six.
Frazar kept catching Karlsson atop the leaderboard, finally getting the lead to himself when Karlsson bogeyed No. 17 after yanking a 3-wood way left off the tee. Frazar promptly gave the stroke back on the 72nd hole when his second shot landed near the green and dribbled into the water.
Karlsson stroked in an 8-foot par putt to set up his second straight playoff in Memphis.
In the playoff, Frazar had a 17-footer for birdie and the win on the first hole at No. 18 where he had just bogeyed. But he pushed his putt a foot past. Karlsson had an 18-foot birdie putt for the win on the par-3 11th only to just miss right, while Frazar two-putted from 45 feet.
Frazar had a nice drive on the third hole, the par-4 12th, that left him 93 yards to the pin. He hit his approach to 22 feet and two-putted.
Karlsson had to chip onto the green, and the ball sped past 11 feet past the hole. Needing to hole out to extend the playoff, Karlsson missed his par putt left.
Frazar tied Karlsson at 12 under through three, at 13 under through eight and at 14 under when he stuck his tee shot on the par-3 No. 11 6 feet from the pin for his fourth birdie of the round. With nobody else closer than six strokes, the men matched par for par over the next five holes.
Frazar had birdie putts of 4 feet and 15 feet to take the lead on Nos. 16 and 17 but couldn’t knock them in.
Still sharing the lead, Karlsson yanked his tee shot on the par-4 No. 17 way into the rough. His 8-iron came up 42 yards short of the pin, leaving him a 6-footer for par. He started it left of the hole, and it never moved off the line rolling 4 feet past the pin.
Frazar gave it right back on 18, taking his drop and knocking his ball to 2 feet to salvage bogey after Karlsson’s par putt from 8 feet.
“Felt more like 12 for me,” Karlsson said. “Really, really big 8 feet. I know that’s a putt to get into the playoff. So you … pick your shot and try to hit it there. Scary thing was I had quite a big spike mark right in the way, but you can’t clip it. That’s the way it is. You take your spot and try to hit it as good as you can, and it went in. It was great.”
DIVOTS: Nine consecutive PGA Tour events have been decided by a stroke or a playoff. … This marks the third time in St. Jude history that the winner has been decided in a playoff in back-to-back years. Don Whitt and Tommy Bolt won playoffs in 1959 and 1960, while Andy Bean and Gil Morgan needed extra holes to win in 1978 and 1979. … Frazar’s 71 in the opening round equals the high start by a winner on Tour this year and is just the second over-par opening round by a champion this year. Rory Sabbatini opened the Honda Classic with 1-over 71, and Bubba Watson started the Farmers Insurance Open with the same score. … Frazar is just the sixth player to make Memphis his first win in the 54-year history of the event.