Byrd hits the jackpot in Las Vegas

By Associated PressOctober 25, 2010, 5:04 am

Justin Timberlake SHC Open

LAS VEGAS – Jonathan Byrd figured there was barely enough light left to play one more hole.

Turns out he only needed one more swing.

In a swift and shocking finish Sunday in Las Vegas, Byrd made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the fourth extra hole to win a three-man playoff in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital Open. The PGA Tour said it was the first sudden-death playoff decided by an ace.

“It’s kind of hard to process because I’m still kind of in shock,” Byrd said.

So was everyone else who saw another Fall Series thriller.

Moments earlier, it looked as though the tournament might not finish until Monday – without Byrd.

Byrd’s approach on the 18th tumbled over the green and was one hop away from going into the water when it settled into a clump of grass. He chipped up to 7 feet and saved par to stay in the playoff.

Then came the decision.

Byrd, defending champion Martin Laird and Cameron Percy – they each made par on the three playoff holes – discussed whether there was enough light to continue. They agreed to go one more hole – the 204-yard 17th at the TPC Summerlin – with the understanding any of them could stop if they couldn’t read their putts on the green.

That wasn’t necessary.

Byrd had the honors and hit a slight draw toward the flag. That’s about all he saw. The ball landed about 10 feet short of the hole and rolled in like a putt. It was too dark for Byrd to see the ball disappear into the cup, and even the cheers from a smattering of fans around the green were not immediately convincing.

“Did that go in?” Byrd asked his caddie.

“It started perfect, it turned perfect and it was coming right down the flag,” Byrd said. “I thought I hit it too good. I thought I hit it too far. And I couldn’t see anything. But to hear the reaction as it went in, I was just in shock.”

Byrd said he tried to control his emotion because Laird and Percy, a tour rookie from Australia, still had to tee off.

“It’s pretty hard to follow that,” Byrd said.

Both hit into the water, and Byrd had his fourth PGA Tour victory, this one unlike any other.

Players have made an eagle with a full swing on the final hole to win tournaments. Among the more memorable were Isao Aoki in the Hawaiian Open in 1983, Robert Gamez at Bay Hill in 1990 and Craig Parry to win a playoff on the 18th hole at Doral in 2004.

Paul Casey had a walkoff ace to win a foursomes match at the Ryder Cup in Ireland, and Peter Hanson made a hole-in-one in a playoff at Walton Heath to earn a spot in the 2009 U.S. Open.

But a hole-in-one with a PGA Tour title on the line? That was a first.

“You’re never prepared for a hole-in-one,” Laird said.

It was the second straight week of high drama at a time of the year when players are simply grinding to keep their PGA Tour cards. Just last week at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle, Rocco Mediate holed out a wedge for eagle on the 17th hole of the final round, right after Alex Prugh came within inches of a holing out from the tee box with a driver.

This one was even more incredible, and it came at just the right time. Byrd was No. 117 on the money list going into Las Vegas, and this gives him a two-year exemption.

Byrd closed with a 68, and he had to watch four times – once in regulation, three times in a playoff – as Laird stood over a birdie putt with a chance to win. That sequence started in regulation, when Laird had a 30-foot birdie try. Laird, the defending champion, shot 69.

Percy, the Australian rookie who needed to win to keep his job on the PGA Tour, earlier holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 67 that allowed him to get into the playoff. They finished at 21-under 263.

Byrd thought he had a chance on the second playoff hole – also the 17th – when his 25-foot birdie putt spun 180 degrees out of the cup. Getting back to the 17th took almost as big of a break as his hole-in-one.

He was stunned to see his ball go down the side of the green toward the water, figuring his playoff was over.

“When I saw it go down the hill and I heard people going, ‘Aww-w-w,’ I thought it was in the water, and I thought I was going to be done,” he said. “And then right at the last second, I kind of heard somebody cheer. And they don’t cheer when it goes in the water.”

The cheering was even sweeter on the next hole.

Byrd won $774,000 for his first win since the 2007 John Deere Classic.

Percy won $378,400, but he needed a victory to keep his card. He at least moved up to No. 144 on the money list, which at least will spare him going to the second stage of Q-school depending on how he fares in his last tournament.

Webb Simpson was at 22 under and had a one-shot lead until he pulled his tee shot into the water on the 17th and made double bogey. He finished with a 68 and wound up one shot out of the playoff, along with Spencer Levin, who had a 66.

Nick Watney, who lives in Las Vegas and was playing his final tournament before his wedding, had a 66 and tied for sixth with Cameron Beckman, who had a 67.

For those trying to finish in the top 125 on the money list to keep their tour cards, they now must wait two weeks before the final official tournament of the year at Disney.

It will have a hard time topping the last two weeks.

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."