LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Australia’s Cam Davis edged Troy Merritt with a par at the fifth playoff hole on Sunday (July 4) to win his first US PGA Tour title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Michigan.
Davis had eagled the par-five 17th and birdied 18 in regulation to thrust himself into a playoff with Merritt and Joaquin Niemann, all three tied after 72 holes on 18-under-par 270.
It was a heartbreaking finish for Chile’s Niemann, whose first bogey of the week came at the first playoff hole, his second shot at the par-four 18th threatening the flagstick but taking a hard bounce to settle in deep rough behind the green.
Davis had a chance to clinch it but could not make a six-foot birdie putt, settling for a par that matched Merritt’s.
Both would par the next three to bring the playoff back for a second time to the par-three 15th.
Davis could not get his 12-foot birdie putt to drop, but he emerged with the victory after Merritt missed the green and chipped on from deep rough only to miss his attempt at a par-saving putt.
“It’s been pretty hectic ever since the 17th hole for me,” said Davis, who carded a five-under par final round of 67 to be the first in the clubhouse on 18-under.
“I just tried to put as much of it out of my mind as I possibly could and just hit every shot for what it was worth.
“As simple as it is to say, it’s hard to do when the pressure is on. I didn’t make any putts but I kept on putting it in play so it worked out all right.”
Merritt said Davis “did what he had to do.
“He put it on the green every hole, had a chance to win five times, hit great putts and he just played fantastic,” Merritt said. “So my hat’s off to him.”
Merritt and Niemann, who started the day tied for the lead, joined Davis in providing plenty of late-round fireworks appropriate to the Fourth of July holiday.
They both birdied the 16th to share the lead at 17-under – the group atop the board on that number swelling to five players when Davis holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker at the 17th.
“I was just trying to hit a good bunker shot,” Davis said. “Picked my spot and just flew it a little bit past it, jammed the flag. Those I guess are the sort of things that need to go your way if you want to keep pushing forward.”
Davis rolled in a six-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole, then Merritt and Niemann both birdied the par-five 17th to make it a three-way tie for the lead, Niemann missing a 13-foot eagle attempt that would have given him the lead outright.
Neither could birdie 18, however, Niemann finishing with four birdies in his four-under 68 and Merritt posting six birdies and two bogeys in his 68.
Niemann, who was vying to become the first player since J.T. Poston at Greensboro in 2019 to win a US PGA Tour event without making a bogey, admitted it was gut-wrenching that his first mis-step came at the first playoff hole.
“It’s hard to be standing here knowing that there is a playoff going on right now,” Niemann said, adding that he nevertheless was “pretty happy with how my game is right now.
“I know that I could have closed the tournament pretty early on 14,” added the Chilean, who missed a five-foot birdie chance there. “Then I couldn’t make a putt on 17 and 18. It’s just the way it works.”
Sweden’s Alex Noren fired an eight-under par 64 to share fourth on 271 with Hank Lebioda, who signed for a 68.
Americans Bubba Watson (64) and Brandon Hagy (68) were a stroke back on 272.