Gay wins Bermuda Championship for first title since 2013
November 01, 2020
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
Brian Gay birdies first playoff hole to win Bermuda
SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – Brian Gay wasn’t quite sure he’d ever win again.
Since the PGA TOUR’s Return to Golf in June, the 48-year-old was without a top-25 finish in 11 starts. He had made 169 starts since his last TOUR title, The American Express in 2013.
A common question posed to Gay in recent months: Was he excited about the prospect of joining PGA TOUR Champions upon turning 50 in December 2021?
Those questions can be put to bed for a while.
The University of Florida alum carded a final-round 64 at the Bermuda Championship, capped off with a birdie at the 72nd hole, ultimately good for a playoff with Wyndham Clark at 15 under. Gay won with a birdie on the first extra hole – again the par-4 18th at Port Royal GC.
With his fifth TOUR title, Gay becomes the oldest TOUR winner since Davis Love III at the 2015 Wyndham Championship. He gains entry into next year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, PLAYERS Championship and Masters Tournament, in addition to earning 500 FedExCup points.
He’ll be fully exempt on TOUR through the 2022-23 season – well into his 50s.
“I did wonder,” said Gay after cementing his first title in nearly eight years. “I’ve struggled the last few months and been quite miserable on the golf course at times. Everyone around me kept telling me, ‘You’re still going to win. My wife says, ‘You’re still going to win; do it again.’
“Just kept at it. Crazy game; you never know what’s going to happen. And it’s really hard to believe right now.”
After a T3 finish at last year’s Bermuda Championship, Gay knew that the 6,828-yard, par-71 Port Royal layout suited his game well. Prodigious length off the tee is not required; the seaside venue goes hand-in-hand with the ball-control brand that has led Gay to maintain a consistent presence on TOUR for more than two decades.
Brian Gay’s Round 4 highlights from Bermuda
Gay was born in Texas but grew up in Fort Rucker, Alabama – his dad was an officer in the U.S. Army – and he learned the game at the Fort Rucker golf course, on Bermudagrass.
Despite recent uneven results, then, he felt a natural level of comfort upon arrival in Bermuda.
“It’s in the back of your mind,” said Gay when asked whether he liked his chances even before teeing it up. “I had good feelings from last year, finishing tied for third, so I was looking forward to coming back. It’s not something you want to think about too much or have over-expectations, but just know that you’re in a good place and just do your thing and have a chance to play well.
“I love Bermuda greens. Living in Florida, the wind doesn’t bother me; I think it’s familiarity with the Bermudagrass. It’s not a long golf course. It’s a golf course where I get a lot of short clubs and you can’t really overpower a golf course. It keeps the shorter hitters in the game. Everybody has a chance here.”
In a week where 64-year-old Fred Funk made the cut averaging less than 245 yards off the tee, Gay’s 287.9-yard average (No. 38 in the field) was more than enough. Gay has historically ranked near the back of the pack in TOUR driving distance, but most always ranks near the top in accuracy – and has an inherent advantages on certain courses.
Port Royal GC draws comparison to seaside Harbour Town Golf Links, longtime host venue of the RBC Heritage – which Gay famously won by 10 strokes in 2009.
Gay has worked recently to increase distance off the tee, but knows he’ll never be one of the longer hitters in the game. He’s OK with that. His model still works when all facets of his game are clicking, as was displayed in Bermuda.
“I’ve always been a short hitter; short, straight, good short game,” Gay said. “The guys are young and hitting it really far, so I’ve tried to do some things in the gym and some stuff with my swing, to get some more distance to try to stay out here longer.
“I want to stay past turning 50. Right now, I still feel I want to play out here. Everyone asks me, ‘When are you going to PGA TOUR Champions?’ and I tried to just focus on the PGA TOUR until I decide to go over there. It’s pretty cool that it (victory) happened. Really unexpected.”
Golf could be in the midst of a revolution. Players are attaining record-setting ball speeds and distances, seemingly by the week. 500-yard par-4s have been reduced to driver-wedge. Fewer and fewer holes play as true par-5s.
Will a player of Gay’s ilk be able to compete in 10, 20 years’ time?
“I certainly hope so,” he said. “I think it’s better when everybody in the field can compete and have a chance to win. It’s phenomenal what guys are doing to change their game and try to find advantages somewhere on the golf course to try to beat people.
“Hats off to them for going and doing the work. It’s a tough game, and we’re all trying to do the best we can at it.”
This week, none better than Gay.