Fowler wins thrilling Players playoff
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Rickie Fowler's second birdie in a playoff at the island green 17th Sunday gave him the title at The Players Championship.
Fowler, who was recently voted by his peers as one of the most overrated players on tour, played the final six holes of regulation in 6-under par to close out a 5-under 67. That run got him in the clubhouse first at 12-under- par 276.
Sergio Garcia (68) and Kevin Kisner (69) birdied the 16th and 17th to join Fowler at minus-12.
The trio returned to the 16th tee on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for a three-hole aggregate playoff. All three missed the fairway at the par-5 and laid up with their second shots.
After reaching the green in three, they all 2-putted for par. The group shifted to the 17th, where all three players hit the green with their tee shots.
Garcia putted from a similar spot than he did in regulation, but missed left. Kisner drained his birdie chance from just inside 10 feet, then Fowler answered from just over six feet out.
At the 18th, all three players hit the fairway off the tee. Garcia dropped his approach just over 15 feet from the hole, while Kisner and Fowler came up short. They both 2-putted for par from the fairway.
Garcia needed to make his birdie try to stay in the extra session, but failed to do so. He made par for a total of 12 in the playoff. Fowler and Kisner posted a score of 11 for the three holes, and they returned to the 17th.
Kisner's tee shot stopped 12 feet past the hole. Fowler then stuffed his tee ball inside five feet. Kisner missed his birdie putt on the left.
Fowler drained his putt for birdie and his second PGA Tour title.
"I've been waiting a long time for this. Back in the winner's circle," said Fowler at the trophy presentation. "That finish was pretty fun. I went up against two great guys in the playoff, obviously two great players.
"I was quite a ways out of it going to No. 12. That was the biggest turning point. I had an awkward lie in a fairway bunker at 14 and just tried to hit a shot and it worked out, and I made par. I really got moving from there."
Kisner lost a playoff for the second time in four PGA Tour events.
"You've got birdie holes coming in. Sixteen and 17 is just a sand-wedge today, so you've got a chance. Early in the round, I gave myself some chances, but didn't hole anything. I had a great day though," said Kisner, who lost to Jim Furyk in a playoff at the Heritage. "I don't think I was really looking back at that (Heritage loss), but the calmness I had all day I'm sure was from the experience I had. So, I probably relied on it without knowing."
Ben Martin bogeyed the last for a 70. Bill Haas had a chance to get into the extra session, but failed to birdie the last. He also closed with a 70. Martin and Haas shared fourth place at 11-under-par 277.
Rory Sabbatini (69) and Kevin Na (71) tied for sixth at minus-9, while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy closed with a 70 of his own to end in a share of eighth at 8-under-par 280.
Fowler, who teed off seven groups ahead of the leaders, was three back to start the day. He bogeyed the first, but erased that mistake with a birdie on the seventh. Fowler parred the other seven holes on the front side. He dropped another stroke at the 10th to dip to 6-under, where he trailed by five.
With Fowler well off the pace, there was plenty of drama on the front nine. Third-round leader Chris Kirk opened with a par to remain at 10-under. Martin and Kisner birdied the second, while Haas made birdie at No. 3 to create a 4- way tie atop the leaderboard.
Garcia birdied the fifth and there were five leaders. Kirk and Kisner bogeyed four and five to fall two behind the Spaniard. Garcia birdied the sixth for his fourth birdie in five holes to climb to 11-under, where he led by two. Martin closed the gap to one with a gain at 11.
Fowler moved into the mix at that point. After birdies at 13 and 15, he stuffed his second to the par-5 16th to two feet. He kicked in the eagle effort and was suddenly one back and tied for second.
A two-shot swing gave Fowler the lead. He birdied the 17th from seven feet out, while Garcia made bogey at 14 from the trees.
Fowler rolled in a 17-footer for birdie at 18 to post 12-under. He walked off the course two shots clear of the field, but there were seven groups left to finish. The 11 strokes Fowler needed to play the final four holes, set a new tournament record.
Garcia birdied the 16th to get within one. Haas and Martin did the same. At the 17th, Garcia poured in a 44-footer birdie and a share of the lead. He had a look at birdie on 18, but his putt missed on the right.
"I think it was a solid week. I putted nicely today, but the way I putted the first three days, to even have a chance was a big effort," Garcia admitted. "I felt like I played nicely. I thought I hit a nice putt there at 18, thought it was going to break a little bit more."
Kisner birdied 16 and 17 to forge a 3-way tie at 12-under.
Haas left his birdie putt on the lip at 17, then missed another birdie try at the last to end one back. Martin birdied the 17th for his third straight gain, but a drive into the trees at 18 led to a closing bogey, which left him one shot short of the playoff.
NOTES: Fowler, who's other tour win was at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, earned $1.8 million for the victory ... Garcia is the first player to post five top-5 finishes since this event moved to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass ... This was the fifth playoff in event history, and first since 2011 ... Last year's winner Martin Kaymer stumbled to a 4-over 76 and dropped into a tie for 56th at even-par 288 ... Two-time winner Tiger Woods had his round derailed by a triple-bogey at 14. He closed with an even-par 72 to end at plus-3 for the week ... J.B. Holmes will defend his title next week as the tour moves to North Carolina for the Wells Fargo Championship.