It’s too bad that it was so dark by then that Byrd didn’t see his tournament-winning shot roll in the hole. “Did that go in?” he exclaimed in disbelief after his tee shot on the 204-yard 17th hole at TPC Summerlin, the 4th extra playoff hole, was greeted by boisterous cheers.
With the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open virtually won, courtesy of his historic ace, he simply had to wait and see if the two other players in the playoff, defending champion Martin Laird and Australian Cameron Percy, could match his feat.
They did not and Jonathan Byrd was left standing with his 4th PGA Tour triumph.
Until the playoff began in Las Vegas it was impossible to tell who would win be the winner on Sunday. The lead changed back and forth multiple times. Webb Simpson separated himself from the field and reached 22 under par but an untimely double bogey on the 17th hole left him shaking his head as he let the tournament slip out of his hands.
Of all the players in the hunt though, Byrd made the run that was the most deserving of the title. He smoothly rolled in birdies on the 15, 16, and 17th holes of the final round and made a clutch mid-length putt on the 18th to reach 21 under par and a spot in the playoff.
Just prior to the amazing ace, Byrd made a great up and down from the water-side on the 18th, this time as the 3rd extra hole.
Upon completion of that hole the players debated whether they would continue the playoff with the darkness closing. Byrd diplomatically told Laird and Percy that, “I’ll leave it up to you guys.” Had they known what was about to transpire on the very next hole, they might have chosen to sleep on it.
Byrd had the honors for par three and struck a perfect 6-iron that landed just short of the hole and rolled right into the centre of the cup. Laird and Percy both found water with their odds-against attempts to keep Byrd from the win.
“…I’ve played that hole well in regulation and in the playoff, hit good shots, and just went through my same process, and for me it was put a 6-iron kind of back in my stance and try to play more of kind of a sweeping draw into that left pin and curve it over to it,” said Byrd as he explained he lead-up to the ace. “It started perfect, it turned perfect, and it was coming right down the flag. I thought I hit it too good. I thought I hit it too far, and I couldn’t see anything. But to hear the reaction as it went in, I was just in shock.”
After Rocco Mediate’s four hole-out performance at the FRYS.COM Open the week prior, few imagined that another PGA Tour Fall Series event could eclipse the excitement of that showing but Byrd’s “walk-off” ace to win in Vegas did just that. You could almost see Tim Finchem smiling on his couch back at his Florida home.
Byrd, who has struggled in 2010 and was close to losing his card at #117 on the money list, will now have two more guaranteed years on the PGA Tour where he can get his game back into the form that has made him a perennial tournament contender.
The PGA Tour Fall Series will conclude in two weeks with the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World. Stephen Ames will defend and while the off-course activity will be relaxed, on the course the players will be fighting for their livelihoods with the final PGA Tour Money List on the line.