Garcia, Kisner praise new playoff format
May 10, 2015
By Helen Ross and Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Sergio Garcia wasn't able to advance to the sudden-death potion of the new playoff format for THE PLAYERS. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sergio Garcia has now been in two playoffs at THE PLAYERS Championship.
The Spaniard won in sudden death in 2008, beating Paul Goydos when he deposited his tee shot in the water at the 17th hole, which at the time was the start of the festivities.
On Sunday, before a loud and enthusiastic Mother's Day crowd at TPC Sawgrass, Garcia was part of the first aggregate playoff in the tournament's history. By all accounts, the format made a successful debut -- even if the 35-year-old veteran was the first to be eliminated.
In the playoff, Garcia played the THE PLAYERS Stadium Course's final three holes in even par to 1 under for Rickie Fowler and Kevin Kisner. So the other two went to sudden death, heading back to the infamous 17th, where Fowler made his third birdie in roughly 90 minutes to earn the second victory of his career.
"I like better 17 only," Garcia joked when asked about the format before turning more serious. "No, I think it's good. When you have such a big championship like this, like THE PLAYERS, I think it's nice to have three holes.
"It seems more fair to everyone."
Both The Open Championship and PGA have gone to aggregate playoffs. The Open uses a four-hole format, introduced in 1985 and first employed four years later. The PGA switched from sudden death to a three-hole playoff in 2000. Tiger Woods and Bob May had their famous duel that same year.
For Kisner, it was his second playoff in three weeks. He lost to Jim Furyk at the RBC Heritage and said the experience helped keep him calm during a frenetic Sunday in north Florida.
"Coming down the stretch there, around 16, 17, 18 was a super cool atmosphere," Kisner said. "Hitting those shots into 17 all three times was really good shots, and birdieing it twice is super cool, with all those people watching."
Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee probably spoke for most fans when he marveled at how the playoff got progressively more dramatic on three of the most distinctive holes on the PGA TOUR. The 16th is a risk-reward par 5, the island 17th a gut-check of a par 3 and the 18th a brutal par 4.
"Nobody blinked, right down to the very end," Chamblee said.
Chamblee's colleague, Frank Nobilo, said the golf course pushed the playoff participants to the "very limit.
"All they did was fire at flags," he said. "It was amazing.”
Sergio Garcia’s clutch birdie putt on No. 17 at THE PLAYERS
NO. 17 BITES THOMAS LATE: PGA TOUR rookie Justin Thomas was two shots off the lead and in second place with nine holes remaining in his PLAYERS Championship debut. Thomas, who played alongside Sergio Garcia in the day’s third-to-last group, shot 40 on his back nine, though, and dropped to 24th place.
Thomas’ back nine included a double-bogey at the island-green 17th after his tee shot landed on the green and bounced into the water.
“I was right there with five holes to go. I felt like I could have won the tournament,” said Thomas, who’s No. 40 in the FedExCup. “I hit a really good shot (on 17), but it’s really hard to hit a 135-yard shot when you have that much adrenaline. You want to send a driver, not hit a little wedge.”(Getty Images)
TAKING AWAY THE POSITIVES: Ben Martin had an opportunity to add his name to the list of playoff participants. Martin, who was making his PLAYERS debut, finished one shot outside the playoff after missing a 16-foot par putt at the final hole.
Martin was three shots off the lead when he bogeyed the par-5 ninth hole, but he rebounded with birdies at both 10 and 11. A bogey at No. 14 was followed by three consecutive birdies, but his tee shot on the final hole went into trees right of the fairway and he had to punch out. He hit his 104-yard third shot to 16 feet. It was Martin’s third consecutive bogey on TPC Sawgrass’ finishing hole.
“Being in the hunt on Sunday and in one of the best fields in the world, one of the best tournaments we play all year, I won't take any negatives away, only positives,” said Martin, who rose to 11th in the FedExCup. “I gave myself a chance, birdieing 15, 16, 17. … I hit the same tee shot I hit the last two days on 18. So that tee shot will be the one thing that got me three out of four days.”(Getty Images)
SHIFT IN ATTITUDE: For much of this steamy Sunday afternoon, Bill Haas thought he was chasing Sergio Garcia. And he was right.
But Haas was losing ground after missing a pair of 3-footers on the front nine that sent him tumbling outside the top-10 on the leaderboard. "Those are two I wish I could do over," he said.
Birdies on the 10th and 14th holes helped get Haas back on track. Then he looked at the leaderboard and saw that Rickie Fowler had posted 12 under and was in the lead after playing his final six holes in 6 under.
"I said, all right, I got to make three more," Haas said, thinking about the figurative kick in the pants. "It was, all of a sudden, my mentality changed a little."
Haas proceeded to hole an 8-footer for birdie at the 15th hole to pull within two of the lead. He then hit a towering 5-wood onto the green at the par-5 16th, setting up a 12-footer for a potential eagle. Granted, he missed the putt but after tapping in for birdie, Haas had pulled within a shot of the lead.
"That was a fun shot to hit, because I executed that about as good as I could," Haas said. "I was proud of that shot."
Haas was on the 17th tee when Sergio Garcia drained that 43-footer on the island to join Fowler at the top of the leaderboard. The former Wake Forest All-American said the roar made the "hair on your arms stand up a little bit -- it's like, oh, man, this is cool."
Haas was nothing if not motivated at that point. He'd just made three birdies, why not four? And he came close as the 39-footer stopped an inch from the cup. The 30-footer from the fringe at the 18th that followed didn't have a chance -- but Haas still had his best finish ever at TPC Sawgrass.
"I had a putt from the fringe to get in a playoff and that's what you play for," Haas said. "I was proud of myself the way I clawed back."(Getty Images)
FOWLER SHARES VICTORY WITH FAMILY: Rickie Fowler’s torrid finish at TPC Sawgrass took many by surprise, including his family.
Fowler’s sister Taylor and mother Lynn were in Jacksonville International Airport as Rickie was playing the final holes Sunday. They decided to return to the course when Rickie made birdie at No. 17 in regulation. He also birdied the 18th, then won THE PLAYERS Championship on the fourth playoff hole.
“I knew they were planning to leave at 4:00 or so, so I assumed with my less-than-stellar play the first 12 holes that they were well on their way,” Rickie said. He was 1 over par for his first 12 holes Sunday before going 6 under par on the final six. His final-round 67 matched the low round of the day.(Getty Images)
FOWLER PROVES CRITICS WRONG: Overrated? Rickie Fowler can now offer proof to the contrary.
His own locker in the Champions room at TPC Sawgrass. A custom portrait in the massive clubhouse. One of the 14 clubs he’ll donate from his winning bag, on display on the first floor. His own plaque in the Circle of Champions near the practice facilities.
And the crystal trophy, produced by the House of Waterford in Ireland. It sat within arm’s length of Fowler late Sunday night, the most immediate reward for winning THE PLAYERS Championship in one wild and incredible final day.
“If there was any question,” said Fowler, who began affectionately patting the top of the trophy, “I think this right here answers anything you need to know.”(Getty Images)
FALLING JUST SHORT: Sergio Garcia seemed to know he was part of something special on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass.
There was Rickie Fowler putting on a clinic early, playing his final four holes in a mere 11 strokes to finish at 12 under, something no one had done before at THE PLAYERS Championship. Add those birdies at Nos. 13 and 15, and Fowler had shot a phenomenal 6 under over his final six holes.
"Obviously an amazing finish," Garcia said. "It shows a lot of character from him."
But Garcia and Kevin Kisner -- among others -- then responded, making birdies at the 16th and 17th holes to pull even and force the first aggregate playoff in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship. Kisner even had a 10-footer for birdie on the 18th hole that would have given him the win outright.
"I think we all three did some amazing things coming in," Garcia said. "I thought it was a well-played championship."
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Congratulations Rickie! So proud and happy for you. pic.twitter.com/ogjyzGPukl— Mike McGraw (@BearCoachMcGraw) May 11, 2015
Wow. What an incredible finish! Clutch playing by all 3. @RickieFowlerPGA 8 under on the last 10 played!! Congrats buddy— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) May 10, 2015
@RickieFowlerPGA well played lad. Well played. 👍— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) May 11, 2015
WHAT. A. WIN. He's a star for a reason. The kids got it. Huge huge congrats to my friend @RickieFowlerPGA. You deserve it all buddy.— Ben Crane (@bencranegolf) May 11, 2015
Congrats to @RickieFowlerPGA!!— Hunter Mahan (@HunterMahan) May 11, 2015
Kevin Kisner after his runner-up finish. pic.twitter.com/OrG3f5Be51— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) May 11, 2015
CALL OF THE DAYDoug Bell of PGA TOUR Radio on PGATOUR.COM calls Rickie Fowler’s three birdies at No. 17 on the final day of THE PLAYERS Championship.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Rickie Fowler’s amazing approach on No. 16 is the Shot of the Day
ODDS & ENDS
Sergio Garcia was in search of his ninth career victory and was attempting to join Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Davis Love III (2003, 1992), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Fred Couples (1984, 1996) and Jack Nicklaus (1974, 1976 and 1978) as player with multiple wins at THE PLAYERS Championship. …
Had the 31-year-old Kevin Kisner won he would have been the third player to make THE PLAYERS his first career win, joining Tim Clark (2010) and Craig Perks (2002) as players. Aside from the inaugural event, Hal Sutton (1983) and Craig Perks (2002) are the only players to win THE PLAYERS in their first start at the event. …
Rickie Fowler played the 17th hole six times including the two playoff holes and recorded five birdies on those six attempts. Fowler’s proximity to the hole on No. 17 the three times he played it on Sunday’s final round was as follows:
Regulation: 6 ft. 10 in.
Aggregate: 6 ft. 5 in.
Sudden death: 4 ft. 8 in.
ROUND 4 STATS
Category Round 4 leader Statistic Weekly leader Statistic Strokes gained: tee-to-green Padraig Harrington 5.36 strokes gained Sergio Garcia 3.53 strokes gained per round Driving distance Bubba Watson 317.0 yards Dustin Johnson 311.5 yards Driving accuracy David Toms 13 of 14 Pat Perez 35 of 42 Greens in regulation Padraig Harrington 17 of 18 Pat Perez 57 of 72 Strokes gained: putting Rickie Fowler 3.99 strokes gained Brian Harman
1.76 strokes gained per round Putts per round Derek Fathauer 23 Derek Fathauer 24.5 Total birdies Seven players 6 R. Fowler, K. Kisner, J. Thomas 21