THERE was irony in the rain shortened Zurich Classic going to extra holes but in the end American Brian Stuard booked a ticket to the 2017 Masters while Jason Day will be left to rue a bizarre nine holes in the opening round.
Journeyman Stuard, who didn't have full playing rights prior to this week, overcame Jamie Lovemark at the second extra hole after Korea's Byeong-Hun An, who also finished the three rounds at 15-under, dropped out at the first playoff hole.
It was Stuard's 120th start on the Tour and he capped off the win in style, his third shot to the par-5 18th finishing at kick-in range to secure the victory.
In a topsy-turvy week which saw rain delays in each round, World Number One Day came within a whisker of the play-off with a fabulous final round of 66.
But the damage was done in the first round for the Queenslander when he raced to the turn in 5-under only to make four bogies and give back two shots on his second nine.
He made only one other bogey for the week, in the third and final round, and finished T5 but clearly felt he would have had a chance if the tournament had gone the distance.
“It was a good, solid three days to be honest,” he said after finishing 13-under for the week.
“The weather is what it is and we can't control the weather but I wish it was 72 holes. At least I gave myself an opportunity to be around the leaders if it was a 72 hole event.”
Day said he felt it was his short game, and particularly his putting, which let him down in the final round.
RICKIE MOCKS DAY'S AUSTRALIAN TWANG:
“Finishing off my third round I gave myself a lot of opportunities on the greens coming home but just didn't get it done,” he said.
“I just have to work hard on the greens and hope it doesn't happen again next time I'm in that situation.
“I drove it good and hit a lot of good iron shots into the greens so that was the biggest thing for me. I wasn't happy with how I was hitting it at [the Heritage Classic] and I was very pleased with how the tweaks went this week.”
When play resumed Monday morning Day was through eight holes of his third round and three behind co-leaders Stuard and Jhonattan Vegas.
He parred his first two holes when he returned before picking up his first shot of the day at the 11th and another at 13.
But four straight pars followed, effectively ending his charge by the time he birdied the last.
Day said he will now return home to prepare for The Players tournament in earnest.
“Ill take a couple of days off and head home and get back into practice as long as the weather permits up in Ohio,” he said.
“I need the work, I really need to work I need to make sure I'm prepared and ready coming into The Players.
“I need to hit the drives and irons the way I did this week and improve the short game and if I can do that I definitely feel like I have a shot at winning that tournament.”
Day was the standout among the Australians, though, there were some good results among the rest.
Stuart Appleby posted his best finish of the year as he tries to earn back his card while playing 2016 on a medical extension.
Needing in excess of $600,000 from 20 events, Appleby added $154,000 to the coffers for his T11 finish and now has eight starts remaining to add $258,833.
Also pleased with his week's work will be teenager Ryan Ruffels who has now used six of his allowed seven sponsor exemptions for the season.
His T20 finish will be good for the confidence, especially after missing his last three cuts in succession, and while he is now unlikely to play his way onto the Tour for 2017 he has picked up invaluable experience.
Ruffels reeled off 16 birdies in the 54 holes played, proving he has the game to compete at the top level, but needs to learn to minimise mistakes.
John Senden and Marc Leishman also finished 8-under and T20, the result an encouraging one for Senden who has been out of form all year.
Cameron Percy, Aaron Baddeley, Geoff Ogilvy and Rhein Gibson were the last of the Australians to make the cut, all finishing in the bottom half of the field.
The result was a continuation of a difficult season for Gibson who has made just five cuts in 13 starts while for Ogilvy it will be a bitter pill to swallow after he opened with 67 to be T5 through 18 holes.
PETER KNIGHT HELPS CORRECT YOUR SLICE:
ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS FINAL LEADERBOARD:
*Won in play-off
|T2||BYEONG HUN AN||-15|
|T5||JASON DAY (AUS)||-13|
|T8||HAROLD VARNER III||-11|
|T11||STUART APPLEBY (AUS)||-10|
|T20||JOHN SENDEN (AUS)||-8|
|T20||RYAN RUFFELS (AUS)||-8|
|T20||MARC LEISHMAN (AUS)||-8|
|T48||CAMERON PERCY (AUS)||-5|
|T58||AARON BADDELEY (AUS)||-4|
|T64||GEOFF OGILVY (AUS)||-3|
|T80||rhein gibson (AUS)||E|
|MC||ROD PAMPLING (AUS)|
|MC||robert allenby (AUS)|
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