McDowell tops Simpson to win Heritage in playoff


In a compelling clash between two of the last three U.S. Open champions, Graeme McDowell made par on the first playoff hole to defeat Webb Simpson and win the RBC Heritage on Sunday. Here is the skinny on the final round at Harbour Town:

The leaderboard: McDowell and Simpson at -9; Kevin Streelman and Luke Donald at -7; Jerry Kelly at -6. 

What it means: On the most difficult scoring day of the season, McDowell notched his second career PGA Tour title and first since his U.S. Open triumph in 2010. Fitting, of course, since it was a fairways-and-greens kind of day at Harbour Town, where the wind gusted to 40 mph. The top-ranked player in scrambling this season, McDowell didn’t record a bogey until he took a 5 from just off the back of the 18th green. “I did the hard part and then did that,” he said as he walked toward the scoring tent. No matter. On the first extra hole, he hit a 6-iron from 165 yards to about 20 feet, then two-putted for par to win. With the victory, the Northern Irishman is expected to crack the top 10 in the latest world ranking – his highest position since June 2011.

Round of the day: McDowell, Luke Donald and Russell Henley each shot 69 to post the low rounds of the day. For Donald, it was his fourth T-3 or better in his last five appearances here.

Best of the rest: It was a scrappy effort for Simpson, who played his last eight holes in 1 under to finish at 9-under 275 and force a playoff. But on the first extra hole, he fanned his iron shot to the right of the green, on top of a knoll, and was unable to get up and down after missing a 6-foot par putt. Earlier in the day, he had found himself in sole possession of the lead after birdieing Nos. 2 and 3. Nonetheless, Simpson posted his best finish since his victory last June at Olympic Club.

Biggest disappointment: Staked to a two-shot lead Sunday, Charley Hoffman closed with a back-nine 40 and final-round 77 to finish four shots behind. He was still tied for the lead when he stood on the tee on the par-3 14th, but he blocked his tee shot into the water and never recovered.

Shot of the day: Staring at a bogey on the par-4 13th, McDowell instead buried a clutch 25-foot par putt to stay in a share of the lead. It helped also that he sank a 7-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to move one shot clear, giving him a slight cushion to play the difficult last two holes.

Quote of the day: “It was really tricky and gusty out there. I’m just really happy to get my first official PGA Tour victory across the line.” – McDowell