PANAMA CITY, Panama – Alvaro Ortiz didn’t lose by a shot Sunday in Panama.
He lost by an inch – twice.
The 21-year-old younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos, Ortiz came out on the wrong end of a three-way playoff at Panama Country Club, losing to Chilean champion Toto Gana on the second extra hole.
But had either one of two brutal lip-outs late in his round gone down, he’d be on his way to the Masters.
After mis-clubbing his approach and making bogey at the par-4 14th, Ortiz left his playing partners and walked by himself to the 15th tee as Gana and Joaquin Niemann finished out the hole.
"I was really pissed with myself because I made a mental mistake," he said. "It just really pissed me off that I didn't make a bad swing and I made a bogey.
“Coming to 15, I was not yelling at myself, but I was trying to push myself. I was yelling at myself, like, ‘Come on, let's do it. Let's be positive. We have a drivable par 4. We can do this.’”
After psyching himself up, Ortiz ripped a 3-wood 280 yards onto the green, setting up a putt for eagle from about 25 feet.
“I was so nervous,” he said. “I knew that I needed to make it or at least two-putt. I don't know, I felt weird over the ball, especially on the first putt. I hit it and left it about 3 feet short.”
The 3-footer he had left for birdie would have kept him within one shot of Gana, who on 15 got up and down for birdie from the greenside bunker.
Ortiz looked over his putt, settled in over the ball, and made the stroke he wanted.
“I thought I made it in the center of the hole,” he said. “I really didn't know what happened.”
Here’s what happened: his ball violently horseshoed around the hole and stayed out, leaving him with a three-putt par.
“After hitting a perfect 3-wood right in the middle of the green and three-putting for par, that was the moment I knew it was going to cost me,” Ortiz said after his round, with a runner-up medal around his neck.
To his credit, Ortiz bounced back at 17 with a clutch birdie, moving him one behind Gana when he should have been tied.
After Gana failed to save par at 18, he, Ortiz and Norman advanced to a playoff and went right back to the 18th tee. Just as he did in regulation, Ortiz was so full of adrenaline that he nearly drove the ball through the fairway and into the water hazard about 350 yards from the tee. He then hit his short wedge to inside 15 feet, setting up a birdie putt for the win.
And just like on 15 an hour earlier, Ortiz said he thought he “had it the whole way. I actually didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t want to jinx it.”
He wouldn’t have. It wasn’t going in. Ortiz’s ball, moving at what looked like perfect speed, grabbed the lip but once again wouldn’t fall.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew I had hit it on-line,” he said. "I thought it was going to break a little bit left to right. I played it inside the hole, left to right.
“And my caddie told me right before I was about to putt that he thought it was right to left, and I just didn’t see it. And, I mean, he was right.”