Gary Woodland birdied three of the last four of the 72 regulation holes then went out and beat fellow-American Chez Reavie with a par at the first playoff hole on Sunday to win his third US PGA Tour title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
After firing nine birdies in his sizzling 7-under par 64 at TPC Scottsdale's famed Stadium Course and grabbing the clubhouse lead with his 18-under 264 total, the strapping 33-year-old six footer, who started his college life with a basketball scholarship at Washburn University but ended it with a golf scholarship at the University of Kansas, had to watch from the clubhouse as Reevie (66) birdied the last two holes to match his total and force the sudden-death playoff.
Reevie found the fairway when they returned to the par-4 18th hole for the playoff, but Woodland hit a fairway bunker with his drive. Advantage Reevie.
Woodland blasted out of the bunker to the edge of the green and then putted to within two feet of the hole to set up an easy par. Reevie, meantime, missed the green and then came up short with his putt. Advantage and game Woodland.
Reavie, who who had nailed a 21-ft putt for the birdie at 18 to put himself into the playoff, failed from a shorter distance this time, leaving Woodland to tap in for his first win since 2013 and point to the heavens as he celebrated.
"This is pretty special. It's been a long five-year wait. But it has been coming. We knew it the last month," Woodland told the media after his round. "My caddie told me today, 'hey, this has been building, this is coming'. Sure enough today it all clicked. I made some putts early, it gave me some confidence and I really hit the ball well coming down the stretch."
Woodland's win comes after a difficult year off the course after he and his wife, Gabby, had discovered that one of their expected twins had died before birth. And it's made the healthy twin, Jaxson Lynn Woodland, even more special
"He's a miracle. He puts everything in perspective," said Woodland after his wife handed him their baby son. "It was obviously a long year for us, but I'm really happy now to be holding him and also to be where I'm at. It's hard right now for me to grasp it, but it's emotional, he's a miracle, and I'm just happy to be here right now."
Woodland teed of in Sunday's final round trailing the 54-hole leader Rickie Fowler by three shots, but five birdies on the front nine put him up among the front-runners.
His momentum momenterally slowed when he sandiched a sixth birdie at 13 between two dropped shots, but he shrugged them away and came blazing back with three more birdies at 15, 16 and 17 to make the playoff.
"Really I was in the zone," Woodland said. "I mean I really had it going. My caddie asked me when we got done, did I know I made nine birdies. I didn't even know that I did that. I knew I was just trying to give myself a chance.
"I knew there was some birdie holes down the stretch, I knew the guys behind me could make birdies, I was just trying to give myself a chance every hole because I knew the putter felt good. Unfortunately I missed the birdie on the last hole. That would have been a really good finish, to birdie the last four. But all in all I was very comfortable with all aspects of the game today."
Behind Reevie, two more Americans, Ollie Schniederjans (65) and Brenden Steele (67) tied for third, three shots back on 15-under with four more Americans, Bryson DeChambeau (70), Chesson Hadley (68), Matt Kuchar (67) and Phil Mickelson (69), the long-tome crowd favourite at the Phoenis Open, tied for 5th, a further shot back on 270.
Fowler stumbled with a closing 73 to eventually finish alongside World No 2 Jon Rahm in a 6-man tie for 11th that was six shots off the pace on 272.
Other pre-tournament favourites who seemed to have left their A games at home this week were World No 3 Jordan Speith, who missed the cut, and World No 5 Jason Thomas, who, despite a closing 66, tied for 17th, one shot behind Rahm.
LEADING FINAL SCORES
(Par 71 - USA unless stated)
266 Gary Woodland 67 68 67 64, Chez Reavie 68 65 67 66 (Woodland won at the 1st play-off hole)
269 Ollie Schniederjans 68 68 68 65, Brenden Steele 68 67 67 67
270 Bryson DeChambeau 66 66 68 70, Chesson Hadley 66 68 68 68, Matt Kuchar 71 68 64 67, Phil Mickelson 70 65 66 69
271 Brian Gay 67 68 68 68, Martin Laird (SCO) 68 67 68 68
272 Daniel Berger 68 65 68 71, Rickie Fowler 66 66 67 73, James Hahn 70 67 66 6, Chris Kirk 66 68 68 70, Jon Rahm (ESP) 67 68 65 72, Vaughn Taylor 67 68 70 67
273 Beau Hossler 70 68 64 71, Patrick Reed 71 66 69 67, Xander Schauffele 68 67 66 72, Justin Thomas 68 68 71 66.
274 Martin Flores 70 68 68 68, Alexander Noren (SWE) 71 68 65 70.
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