The top 5 playoffs from 2021
9 Min Read
Written by Jeff Eisenband @JeffEisenband
Max Homa’s winning highlights from Genesis
In an era with some parity on the PGA TOUR, playoffs seemingly occur on a weekly basis. The margins are just that slim. This year took extra golf to the next level, though. There was an eight-hole playoff, a six-man playoff and, in rare form, a seven-player showdown for third place.
There are some playoffs that players would like to forget (don’t ask Louis Oostuizen and Charl Schwartzel about the Zurich Classic of New Orleans). But 2021 also gave us a handful that we will remember for years to come. From Max Homa adding to Los Angeles sports history to Patrick Cantlay going unconscious with his putter in Maryland, these are the top playoffs of the past year.
Genesis Invitational: Max Homa’s tree shot saves the day
Max Homa went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows back to the highest of highs in a three-hole span. Coming up 18 on Sunday at Riviera tied for the lead, Homa stuck his approach shot to 3 feet. The Southern California native just needed the short birdie putt for the win. It was the chance for a Tigeresque finish in front of the man himself. Homa grew up idolizing Woods, who also serves as the Genesis’ host. But Homa missed, sending the Genesis Invitational to a playoff between him and Tony Finau.
Homa walked off 18 and called his wife Lacey, who told him to “Forgive quickly.” He would need to remember this again moments later.
Homa and Finau started their playoff on the drivable par-4 10th hole. Homa’s tee shot came to rest near the base of a tree. At first glance on TV, Homa’s ball looked too close to the tree for any sort of shot toward the hole. However, he found a stance and a swing and actually gave himself a look at a 15-foot birdie.
Homa and Finau both made pars (Finau missed from just more than 7 feet away) and they went to the par-3 14th hole. While Finau hit his tee shot in the bunker, Homa gave himself 12 feet for birdie. He two-putt, while Finau failed to get up-and-down, giving Homa his second win on the PGA TOUR and first (of two in 2021) in California.
“Been watching this tournament my whole life. It’s why I fell in love with golf. Tiger (Woods), another reason I’m into golf,” Homa said through tears. “I had good feelings this week. Been playing great. City of champions, Dodgers, Lakers, me now. It’s a weird feeling.”
The win was Homa’s first playoff victory in his first try. Meanwhile, Finau dropped his third straight playoff.
Harris English wins Travelers marathon
Harris English and Kramer Hickok both drained birdie putts on 18 and heaved fist pumps as they both reached 13 under to go to a playoff.
It would then be almost two hours before the 18th hole would see another birdie.
English and Hickok went to No. 18 first. Both made pars. They played it again. Hickok lipped a 43-footer for birdie. English got up-and-down from the bunker for par. They went back to 17. Hickok barely cleared the water on his approach shot. Both made testers for par.
Back to 18. Hickok found himself in nearly the identical spot in a greenside bunker where his Texas Longhorns roommate Jordan Spieth holed out to win a playoff four earlier. Hickok missed his hole-out by inches. On to playoff hole No. 5.
And back to 17. Hickok again had a prime chance to slam the door and lipped out a 12-foot, tournament-winning putt.
They would go back to 18 for the home stretch. On the sixth playoff hole, Hickok made a mess, giving himself a downhill 15-footer for par. Which he made. English then missed for birdie from 8 feet. Let’s play some more.
Both players made two-putt pars on the seventh playoff hole. But English finally made the first birdie of the playoff on Hole No. 26 -- from almost the same line he putted from on 18 to get into the playoff in the first place. Although, this time, he had a more negotiable 16-foot distance.
The victory was No. 4 for English and left Hickok still searching for his first PGA TOUR win. The eight playoff holes tied for the second-longest playoff in PGA TOUR history. Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff can still rest easy, knowing their 11-hole playoff battle at the 1949 Motor City Open survived another year.
C.T. Pan survives bronze medal fight
Through 72 holes, the Olympic Spirit was very much on display at Kasumigaseki Country Club outside of Tokyo. Xander Schauffele and Rory Sabbatini reached the podium with gold and silver, but seven players representing seven different countries still had work left for bronze.
C.T. Pan (Chinese Taipei), Paul Casey (Great Britain), Rory McIlroy (Ireland), Collin Morikawa (United States), Sebastián Muñoz (Colombia), Mito Pereira (Chile) and hometown hero Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) were all tied at 15 under after four rounds. That brought 36 PGA TOUR wins, including seven major titles, to the playoff.
Casey and Matsuyama were slashed after bogeying the first playoff hole. The five remaining players all parred the second playoff hole, but McIlroy, Muñoz and Pereira were all eliminated by birdie on the third extra hole. McIlroy and Pereira both lipped their putts.
On the fourth playoff hole, Morikawa’s approach shot plugged into a bunker short of the green while Pan missed in a safer area short and left of the green. Pan was able to get up-and-down, making an 8-foot par putt, while Morikawa could only muster a bogey.
Pan’s remarkable run to the podium came after opening the week with a 74, leaving him at T57 in the 60-man field after the first round. A 66-66-63 finish helped him deliver Chinese Taipei its first medal in golf.
Kevin Kisner edges Wyndham crowd
Two weeks after the Olympic theatrics, the PGA TOUR had its own mega-playoff on American soil, with six players -- Kevin Kisner, Branden Grace, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Na, Adam Scott and Roger Sloan -- going to extra holes at the Wyndham Championship. Only one other time had so many men tied for first after 72 holes, at the 2001 Genesis Invitational.
Webb Simpson, Kevin Streelman and Russell Henley all finished just one shot out of the playoff and being a part of history.
As for the first playoff hole -- a replaying of 18 -- Kisner came up well short of the green, but came within an inch of holing out. Roger Sloan had a 14-footer for birdie that just fell off the low side.
Meanwhile, Scott put his approach shot inside 7 feet. And after every other player missed their birdie tries, Scott missed his by a ball on the left side. All six made par and all six went back to the tee.
This time around, it was Grace and Kisner with the best looks at birdie. Grace narrowly missed from 13 feet, while Kisner made his 4-footer, giving him his fourth PGA TOUR win and first in almost two and a half years.
Winning six-man playoffs ain’t just a hobby.
Patty ices Bryson at BMW
In arguably the season’s most epic one-on-one battle, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau started Sunday tied for the lead at 21-under and playing in the final group together. Both shot 6-under 66s, with Cantlay burying a 22-footer for birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
And somehow, the blows were just starting. Playing 18 again, Cantlay lipped a chip on the first playoff hole. DeChambeau’s birdie putt missed by a ball on the right.
They played 18 again. DeChambeau went full club twirl in the fairway and left himself 8 feet for birdie. Cantlay, meanwhile, had 47 feet for birdie and actually was in for par before DeChambeau even took his birdie try for the win. But DeChambeau pulled his short putt and the two went back to 17.
DeChambeau lipped yet another birdie try for the win on the third playoff hole. He then hit his tee shot in the penalty area on the fourth playoff hole, now back on No. 18. After dropping two, DeChambeau hit his third shot from 150 yards out to 4 feet. He made par. Cantlay missed his 20-foot birdie putt.
Back to 17. And time to blow the crowd’s mind. DeChambeau went first and hit his tee shot to 6 feet. Cantlay decided to do even better, dropping his ball to within 3 feet of the pin. Both made birdies.
Playing 18 for an eighth and final time for the week, Cantlay and DeChambeau both hit picturesque approach shots to 17 and 12 feet, respectively. Cantlay went first, putting his putt in the heart of the cup. DeChambeau slid his putt an inch to the right, handing Cantlay the win.
DeChambeau played flawless golf for four days in Caves Valley. But Cantlay made history. His 14.58 strokes gained on the greens were the most ever in a 72-hole event since the PGA TOUR began tracking the statistic in 2004. The win also gave him pole position in the FedExCup Standings. Cantlay proceeded to wrap up the FedExCup title at the TOUR Championship the following week.
English cleans Niemann’s plate: The 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions saw Joaquin Niemann shoot a final-round 64 to take the clubhouse lead. Niemann then chose to eat some lunch with Sergio Garcia rather than camp out on the range, while Harris English made birdie on 18 to force a playoff. English would go on to birdie the hole again, beating Niemann on Hole No. 73.
Cantlay slams door at Memorial: After Jon Rahm’s Saturday night withdrawal after a positive COVID-19 test, Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa, two previous winners at Muirfield Village, found themselves tied for the lead at 12 under. Both shot 1-under 71s on Sunday and went to a playoff on 18. Cantlay was able to win with par, claiming his second Memorial Tournament title in three years.
Davis wins Rocket Mortgage madness: One week after English and Hickok went to eight playoff holes, Detroit Golf Club looked to be delivering a similar script. While Niemann again was dropped from the playoff on the first extra hole, Cameron Davis and Troy Merritt trudged on, going all the way to a fifth playoff hole before Davis won with par for his first PGA TOUR victory.
Ancer claims 3-way battle in Memphis: Sandwiched between the epic playoffs at the Olympics and the Wyndham Championship, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational saw Abraham Ancer, Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama all go to free golf. Matsuyama lipped a winning try on the first playoff hole, while Ancer and Burns were both in tight on the second go-around. Putting from nearly the same spot, Ancer made his birdie putt, but Burns missed his, giving Ancer his maiden PGA TOUR win.