After a week of U.S. Open golf where groans outnumbered roars, TPC River Highlands and the Travelers Championship was like a light dessert after a big Sunday dinner.
And it was just the right complement.
Jay Williamson. A 40-year-old career journeyman looking for his first PGA Tour victory, did everything but win. He shot scores of 66-66-67-66 which got him to 15-under. But these turned out to be deeds that did not go unpunished when he found himself in a playoff with Hunter Mahan at the end of 72 holes.
The 25-year-old Mahan got there by roaring home with a final round 65 and then stuffing a short iron on the first playoff hole to emerge with his first win on Tour.
It was crazy out there, said Mahan, the youngest PGA TOUR winner so far this season. I played well all day and Jay was a fighter. You definitely think youre good enough to win. But you just never know when its going to happen.
For his efforts, Mahan will have 1.08 million dollars wired to his account. Williamson, who began the year wondering if professional golf was still part of his future, earned $648,000 for second place.
The wondering, and the worrying about nagging injuries, are behind him for now.
This, actually, would have been Williamsons second victory of the year. Early last month he won in Arkansas on the Nationwide Tour. But regaining his privileges on the big tour shouldnt be a problem now. No. 125 on then money list last year made $660,898.
My life certainly changed for the better today, Williamson said. But it couldve changed for a lot better.
PGA TOUR winners receive, among other things, exempt status for the rest of this year plus two more; an invitation to The Masters; and a spot in the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua, Hawaii next January.
Actually, there were plenty of goodies to go around in Connecticut last week. Bo Van Pelt aced the 16th Sunday and, for that effort, will receive a $50,000 shopping spree of Roberto Coin Jewelry at Lux Bond & Green, a local jeweler. Yes, Van Pelt is married. His wifes name is Carrie.
And, no, they werent giving out shopping spree money at the U.S. Open last week at Oakmont.
This was just more of the contrast between Oakmont and TPC River Highlands. Mahan arrived having played well at Oakmont (T13) and he picked up where he left off there.
Previous first-time winners in this event comprise an eclectic group and include Bob Toski (1953), Charlie Sifford (1967) and Mac OGrady (1986).
Back in the late 90s Mahan had played his first TOUR event (as an amateur) in this tournament. Seems like light years ago, he said. But this place is a little special.
A lot special, really. Coming to the 72d hole Sunday he trailed by a shot and knocked his approach inside of Williamson, he had only had 10 feet himself. Williamson missed, Mahan made.
Same thing on the same hole in the playoff. Williamson hit it close. Mahan hit it closer.
I just couldnt hit the putts that I needed to make to win today, Williamson said. For the week, Mahan had 108 putts, Williamson 111.
And if you are seriously into golf, you couldnt take your eyes off the final pairing of Mahan and Williamson. It doesnt have to be a major championship to be compelling.
Put two players, on top of their games, desperate for a PGA TOUR victory, delivering the goods and it will always be interesting.
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