|Jonathan Byrd (right) greets Robert Garrigus after winning the Tournament of Champions on the second playoff hole. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)|
Jonathan Byrd had a silver trophy at his side and a lei draped around his neck, a winner yesterday in the Tournament of Champions, even if the playoff didn’t end the way anyone imagined.
“Pretty overwhelmed,’’ he said.
The emotions went beyond his victory in the PGA Tour’s season opener when Robert Garrigus, the biggest hitter on tour, missed a 3-foot par putt on the second extra hole at Kapalua, Hawaii.
Just over three months ago, Byrd thought he might lose his card for the first time in his career. He was outside the top 125 on the money list and not much was going his way.
Then came a hole-in-one in near darkness to win Las Vegas in a playoff, getting him to Maui for the Tournament of Champions. He made it two straight wins by closing with a 6-under-par 67, and winning despite the length advantage for Garrigus in the playoff.
“I can’t sit here and not think about where I was toward the end of the season last year, fighting for my card,’’ he said. “I’m just thankful.’’
Garrigus had a 12-foot eagle putt on the last hole in regulation that would have been enough to win. He failed to take advantage of his length on the par-5 18th in the playoff, hitting a poor chip that fooled him. And with a 9-iron to the green on No. 1 in the playoff — Byrd hit 3-iron — he couldn’t get it closer than 40 feet. Garrigus ran it 3 feet by the hole, and tried to jam it in from there and caught the right lip.
“If you had told me this — ‘I’d have been in a playoff with one of the best players in the world’ — I’d have said, ‘Hey, bring it on and we’ll get ’em next week,’ ’’ said Garrigus, who also shot 67. “It was a great week. I’ve lost about 133 golf tournaments, and it’s not that big a deal. I get a nice check, and I get to go next week and relax and have fun.’’
Byrd won for the fifth time in his career, and this was the biggest. He had never won on tour earlier than July. He had never beaten a field this strong, with only PGA Tour winners from last year. And this one came with some perks: Byrd earned an automatic invitation to the Masters, and, with his second win in two months, he is exempt for the US Open.
Graeme McDowell nearly joined them in the playoff. The US Open champion, coming off a dream season, matched the Plantation Course record with an 11-under 62 and finished one shot behind. McDowell had a 10-foot birdie putt on the last hole that just missed.
Steve Stricker, tied with Byrd and Garrigus going into the final round, shot 71 and tied for fourth with Carl Pettersson (68).
European — British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen won a three-way playoff on the first hole to secure the Africa Open title at the East London Golf Club.
The South African finished the final round at 16-under 276 and sank a 12-foot birdie on the 18th to dash the hopes of Chris Wood of England and Manuel Quiros of Spain.