Byrd triumphs in Kapalua playoff for season opener

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Jonathan Byrd won his fifth PGA Tour title by beating fellow American Robert Garrigus in a gripping playoff for the season-opening Tournament of Champions on Sunday.

Byrd sealed victory with a par at the second extra hole, where Garrigus three-putted for bogey, to clinch the winner’s cheque for $1.12 million in the elite event which brings together the title-holders from the previous Tour season.

Garrigus lipped out from just three-and-a-half feet for par after Byrd had come close to sinking a monster birdie putt there from 50 feet.

Byrd had missed a 12-footer for birdie at the first extra hole, the par-five last, where Garrigus failed to roll in his attempt from 15 feet.

“I played solid all day, trying to give myself opportunities,” Byrd said in a greenside interview after becoming the first American winner at the Kapalua Resort since Jim Furyk in 2001. “I just felt good out there.”

Garrigus, bidding for his second PGA Tour victory, said he had hit his short par putt too hard to keep the playoff alive.

“I played it inside right,” he added. “I should’ve played it a little straighter.”

The pair had finished the 72 regulation holes on 24-under-par 268, Garrigus closing with a six-under 67 after lipping out with a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-five last where Byrd parred for a matching 67.

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell was alone in third at 23 under after equalling the course record with a scintillating 62 that featured 11 birdies and just 25 putts.

For much of a breezy afternoon at Kapalua, Byrd appeared to have the title within his grasp.

He began the day tied for the lead with compatriots Steve Stricker and Garrigus and he swiftly forged two strokes clear after striking approach shots to four feet to set up birdies at the first and third.

Out in three-under 33, he drained a 10-foot birdie putt at the 10th to maintain a two-shot cushion but McDowell and Garrigus were fast closing in.

A sizzling run of six birdies on the front nine left McDowell three off the pace and he picked up further shots at the 10th, 13th and par-four 14th, where he almost drove the green, to trail Byrd by just one.

The big-hitting Garrigus also birdied 14 to join Byrd in a tie for the lead at 22 under, where McDowell soon joined them by sinking a curling 22-footer at the par-five 15th.

However, Byrd had struck a superb approach to two feet at the 13th and he knocked in the birdie putt to regain a one-stroke advantage.

McDowell again drew level at the top by sinking a nine-footer at the 16th and Byrd, moments later, wasted a chance to regain control when he missed a six-foot birdie putt at the 14th.

Garrigus also got to 23 under with a birdie on 15 and narrowly missed out on an eagle at the last where he struck a five-wood to 12 feet but grazed the left lip with his first putt.

The tension heightened as Byrd birdied 15 before McDowell’s nine-foot birdie putt at the last slid past the right edge of the cup, denying him a place in the playoff and a course record of 61.

Byrd failed to birdie the 18th, hitting his wedge approach 18 feet short of the hole and two-putting to remain deadlocked with Garrigus at 24 under after regulation.