NORTON - The long-shot was sunk by a long shot.
Trust me, Chez Reavie, if anybody understands stumbling at the finish line, it’s the Boston-area sports fan. Being jilted at the altar of victory is par for the course in these parts. Welcome to the club.
Simply put, Reavie had this tournament won, and then . . . we’ve seen this movie before around here. After a scintillating final-round 66, Reavie deserved better than to channel the demons of Boston sports collapses past at the Deutsche Bank Championship. But that’s what happened.
All the affable Arizona State product, who had a one-shot lead at 16 under headed to No. 18, needed to do to go home with the hardware was par the final hole, which produced the fewest bogeys (23) of any hole over the four-day tournament.
Even eventual winner Webb Simpson, who birdied the 18th to get in the clubhouse at 15 under with a final-round 65, was ready to concede.
“One in 100,’’ Simpson said when asked what he thought the odds of the tournament going to a playoff were when he saw Reavie whipping out a wedge for his third shot on the par-5 18th.
It wasn’t just that Reavie didn’t make par on No. 18, or that it was his only bogey all day. It was how it happened - the calamitous third shot, the one he’ll be replaying in his brain. Just 119 yards from the flag, Reavie played a 54-degree wedge. Blame the wind, blame adrenaline, blame some nerves, but Reavie achieved liftoff worthy of NASA and airmailed his shot to the left of green into the rough by the grandstand.
The Labor Day longball was a fateful blow. Reavie managed to give himself a tough 11-footer for par and the tournament title, and it flirted with the cup but wouldn’t fall. Tournament over.
Sure, there was the matter of the first playoff in the history of the Deutsche Bank Championship, but that was a mere formality. The Golf Gods had spoken.
Simpson, who made a tough birdie putt on the first playoff hole - the 18th - after his own wayward approach shot to extend the playoff, won the tournament with a birdie on the second extra hole, the 17th.
Who didn’t see that ending coming for Reavie at a course named the TPC Boston?
Reavie, who was seeking his second career PGA Tour win, tried to put a good face on his second-place finish, but it was a forlorn look after he missed the tournament-clinching par putt on the 18th hole - a glum grimace - that said more than the composed words he offered afterward.
“You know, it’s definitely difficult to think about it,’’ said Reavie. “It’s not hard to make a 5. I mean I’m going to make a 5 there nine times out of 10. Unfortunately, the only bogey I had all day and the wind kind of got me there, and I just pulled it a touch. But I’m going to look at the positives out of the day. I played great all day. I gave myself a chance to win. I made a birdie on the first playoff hole. I was right there. Webb just made two birdies and I only made one.’’
Too bad the 29-year-old Reavie couldn’t have pulled out the win. It would have made for a great golf tale with William Chesney Reavie as protagonist. He played in 15 tournaments last year and missed the cut nine times because of a balky right knee. Then he ended up with a slice of a different kind when doctors operated on the knee to repair a torn meniscus.
Reavie started the year on tour on a major-medical exemption and played his way into the Deutsche Bank.
His loss here was like Cinderella going to the ball, dancing with the prince, and then tripping, breaking a heel and tearing an ankle ligament.
The ruinous regulation ending for Reavie was so memorable that it’s easy to forget how well he played to get the lead. He started the day a shot off the lead at 10 under, shot 2 under on the front nine and then blistered the back nine with four birdies between holes 11 and 16 to take command, outshining bigger names such as Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, and Phil Mickelson.
Reavie made birdie on the par-4 15th to go 15 under and take sole possession of the lead. Then on the 16th he drained a putt practically from the nearby Comcast Center that pushed him to 16 under and a two-shot lead with two to play.
It was that putt - not the wayward wedge on the 18th - that was going to be Reavie’s defining shot of the tournament. Like the 1979 Bruins, the 1986 Red Sox, and the 2007 Patriots, Reavie thought he was going to win after the 32-foot birdie on 16. “Absolutely, I did.’’
Obviously, he didn’t know where he was.
“After I made birdie there I would have bet I was going to birdie the last two holes as well,’’ Reavie said. “I heard Webb make a birdie when I was on the 17th green. I saw it posted, so I knew I had a one-shot lead, and that’s why I chose my game plan, and unfortunately I just didn’t execute the way I wanted to.’’
The only solace for Reavie is that the first runner-up finish of his career catapulted him into the next round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, where the top 70 players will vie for the BMW Championship near Chicago. He was 87th arriving in Norton. Now, he is ninth in the FedEx standings.
If it’s any consolation, Chez, you have not only the sympathy of these golf fans, but their empathy as well.
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.