Sutherland reflects on 7-hole playoff win at 2019 Rapiscan Systems Classic
March 26, 2020
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- March 26, 2020
- Kevin Sutherland won the 2019 Rapiscan Systems Classic. (PGA TOUR)
Kevin Sutherland was supposed to be waking up in Biloxi, Mississippi, lacing up his spikes and getting ready to defend his 2019 Rapiscan Systems Classic title.
This defense may have felt different than most as Sutherland needed a Monday finish to pull off the second win of his PGA TOUR Champions career.
Last March, Sutherland began Sunday’s final round at Fallen Oak Golf Club with a three-stroke lead over Marco Dawson after opening his week with rounds of 65-69—134 (10-under). Traditionally one of the more demanding venues on the annual Champions Tour schedule, the Tom Fazio-designed course was docile through 36 holes of play, but that changed seemingly overnight.
What many thought could be a runaway victory from Sutherland turned into a battle of survival, as cool temperatures and firm greens gave way to only 12 players breaking par – and Sutherland was not one of them. The Sacramento, California, native managed three bogeys against 15 pars in a bizarre 3-over 75 that left him at 7-under 209, tied with fellow 50-something upstart Scott Parel, who birdied three of his final six holes to close in 69. Of those 15 pars, the most crushing was the last, as the he missed a 3-foot birdie try on the final green that would have sealed the victory.
The duo set out into one of the longest playoffs in PGA TOUR Champions history, with a seven-hole slugfest of survival spilling over into a bitterly cold Monday morning along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With the site limited to tournament staff, Tour staff and a few key partners, Sutherland finally ended the playoff by converting an 18-foot birdie try on the par-4 18th hole. A sense of thrill and relief, but for the then-54-year-old, there was still a lingering sense of frustration.
When asked to recall his first memory of the week, Sutherland didn’t mention his final putt to win on Monday, but instead mentioned a different putt – one he would never forget – and the effects he felt that had on the tournament.
“I remember I missed a short putt for birdie on the final hole to win on Sunday and as we got to Monday, I had a hard time letting that go,” Sutherland said in an interview with PGATOUR.com this week. “I felt so bad for the tournament because they had this amazing ceremony planned to celebrate the champion. I felt as if I put a damper on the tournament.”
The two players managed to get in five holes and five matching pars of the overtime session before darkness ended the day at Fallen Oak.
“Brian Claar, the head rules official, made it very clear that we both needed to be okay with playing the fifth playoff hole, because by the fourth playoff hole, it was already pretty dark,” Sutherland said. “We decided to go for it in hopes of a Sunday finish, but I’ll be honest when we got to the green on the fifth extra hole it was really dark and might have not been the best decision.”
On Monday morning with Golf Channel capturing the eerily quiet scene, Sutherland and Parel played the 18th hole two more times before Sutherland’s winning putt ended what would become the fifth-longest playoff in Champions Tour history.
To some, winning a seven-hole playoff would have brought a great sense of accomplishment or satisfaction, but for Sutherland, it was relief.
“I have never before had a hard time sleeping a night before a big round, but I did that Sunday night. I kept reliving that moment. I felt like I had nothing to gain and everything to lose, which is a really bad place to be,” he said.
“Winning the next day was a big sense of relief more than joy.”
In the five appearances Sutherland has made at Fallen Oak, he’s found great success, finishing runner-up in his 2015 debut and notching a T6 effort in 2017.
“I love Fallen Oak and the tournament as a whole. The people are just so incredibly nice, and I have such great memories there,” Sutherland said. “I will miss getting the chance to relive the win and reconnect with some of the people onsite.”