American Kyle Stanley ended a five-year winless streak on the PGA Tour when he defeated countryman Charles Howell III in a sudden death playoff at the Quicken Loans National.
The pair started the final round four shots from the lead but both were left at the top of the leaderboard after carding matching four under 66s at TPC Potomac to finish at seven under and tied. The tournament went into extra holes and Stanley needed just one as he snapped his winning drought with a par at the first play-off hole.
“There was some doubt there for a little bit,” Stanley said as he wiped away the tears and talked about his struggles to find his game and be competitive again. “Yeah, I mean, it's no fun. You certainly question if you'll get back to, you know, and have a moment like this. It makes this pretty special, for sure.”
Stanley, 29, broke through for his first PGA Tour win at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open, but his game soon disappeared. By the end of 2015 he had dropped to 181st on the FedExCup standings and his world ranking was in the low 400s.
Top-10 finishes at The Players and The Memorial in recent times had given Stanley the confidence that his game was heading in the right direction. Now, he has a two-year PGA Tour exemption and has earned a place in The Open Championship in three weeks’ time.
“It’s very exciting. It’s one of my favourite majors to play. I feel like links golf is a lot of fun. You have to be creative and being in the field, it’s really neat,” Stanley said.
“I don’t have too many memories of The Open, this will be my fourth one, it’s a little bit of a different style of golf but a lot of fun. I enjoy links golf.”
West Australian Curtis Luck also temporarily topped the leaderboard after three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine but bogies at the 8th, 9th and 11th holes saw him sign for an even par 70 and tie for fifth place, which gains him another PGA Tour start next week.
The 20-year-old is attempting to gain a full PGA Tour card on limited starts and needs to match the FedEx Cup points total of the player who finished 150th on last year’s list to be eligible for Special Temporary Membership of the Tour.
If he can achieve that he will be entitled to unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the season and greatly increase his chances of earning full playing rights for the 2018 season.
Luck, Marc Leishman and Geoff Ogilvy were all in the mix on Sunday afternoon.
Leishman continued his good form and rattled home with a closing four under 66 to share fifth place. It was his fourth top-20 finish in his past six starts and augers well for his Open Championship campaign.
Ogilvy was sharing third place with just a few holes to play but two bogies to close cost him dearly as he missed one of the four qualifying spots available for The Open. However, it was a step in the right direction in terms of his form as he pushes to move into the top-100 of the FedEx Cup rankings and ensure his full playing rights for next year.