DAVIDSON, N.C. – Will MacKenzie broke out in a fit of laughter Sunday after his chip at the Chiquita Classic’s 18th green hit the pin and dropped in for an eagle.
It wasn’t quite so jovial when MacKenzie struck the pin again during the playoff, his ball skittering away as Andrew Svoboda made off with the prized bananas. But MacKenzie still could depart with a smile -- the runner-up finish firmed up his bid to return to the PGA TOUR.
“I’m happy with the week,” MacKenzie said. “I hate losing in the playoff -- I’ve won them before, so I feel like I should again. But all in all, it was a great week.”
The 38-year-old pro made his move with a 5-under 67 at River Run CC, but figured he was only playing for second until his lightning-bolt eagle at No.18.
From an upslope just off the green, MacKenzie’s chip cleared a hump and made a beeline for the hole -- hitting the flagstick squarely and dropping into the cup.
Not bad for a mishit -- which is what MacKenzie giggled all the way back to the scoring trailer.
“I did not hit that chip flush,” he said. “What was kind of bizarre is I’d been chipping pretty nice and on those little chips around the green, I’d been taking the pin out.
“My caddie goes, ‘Hey bud, do you want the pin out?’ And I go, ‘Nah, I think I’m going to keep it in.’ Then I thin it a little bit and it rams the pin and goes in. If the pin wasn’t there, it probably would have run over the hole and been 12 feet by.”
MacKenzie faced a similar situation in the playoff, after his 9-iron third shot wound up near the bleachers. This one also came out a little flat, glancing off the flagstick to end up perhaps 12 feet away.
“I was going to hit it into the bank,” he said, “but it got through the grain quicker than I thought and it raced.”
With the runner-up finish, MacKenzie moved into a share of third place on the Web.com Tour Finals money list with Patrick Cantlay, who sat out the week to rest a stress fracture in his back.
SO CLOSE AGAIN: The good news for John Peterson is that he likely locked up his PGA TOUR card with a third consecutive top-5 finish. But the former NCAA champion couldn’t quite shake the disappointment of a final-round 71.
“I’m hitting it good, playing well,” said Peterson, who finished one shot out of the Svoboda/MacKenzie playoff. “I just feel like I should have won this one. … It kind of [hurts], losing by one again. Oh well.”
Two weeks earlier, Peterson also finished one shot out of a playoff at the Cox Classic. Bronson La’Cassie won in Omaha, which also happened to knock Peterson out of the first batch of PGA TOUR cards.
On Sunday, Peterson was plagued by a balky putter. He needed 32 putts to get around River Run, including birdie misses of 5 feet at No.7 and 9 feet at No. 17.
“I just didn’t really get anything going,” he said. “I kept missing those 10- and 12-footers, the ones you’ve got to make. If I had made half the ones I had today, we’d be talking different right now.”
OLYMPIAN EFFORT?: Ryo Ishikawa jumped 14 slots with Sunday’s closing 66, matching the day’s best round. He might have tied for the week’s best, too, but pulled a 4-foot birdie try wide at No.18.
“I wish I could have made the last putt,” said the Japanese star, whose first sub-70 round was good enough to claim a share of fifth. “It was not so difficult a line, but the pressure makes it more difficult. My hands were shaking a little.”
After earning a PGA TOUR card last year via non-member earnings, Ishikawa struggled during his sophomore season. He notched just one top-10 finish, making 13 of 23 cuts and finishing 141st in FedExCup points.
However, Sunday’s finish allowed him to leave River Run in 12th on the Finals money list.
“That’s huge for me,” he said. “I really want to play next year on the PGA TOUR. It’s been a tough season for me, but my long game and my short game are getting better and better.”
His eyes brightened, too, when someone mentioned Tokyo’s selection this weekend as host city for the 2020 Olympics. Ishikawa was among several Japanese athletes who lent their support to the bid.
“That’s huge news for the Japanese,” he said. “Seven years [from now], I’ll be 29 years old, so that’ll be fun. I hope I can play in the Olympics.”