Justin Leonard gave himself a second chance, then made the most of it on Sunday as he won the US$6 million St. Jude Classic with a birdie at the second playoff hole.
Leonard needed two holes of the playoff to dispatch Masters Champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa and Australian Robert Allenby, who like Leonard finished regulation tied at 4-under 276.
“It has been a great week,” Leonard said. “When I won here in 2005, I led every day and almost let it slip away at the end. This week I’ve kind of been back in the pack a little bit and was able to shoot a really solid round today.”
Leonard started the day three shots off the pace.
He took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on 15, but gave it right back when a wayward drive led to a bogey on 17.
At the final hole of regulation, he slid a 15-foot birdie putt just over the lip.
“Gave myself a really good putt at 18 in regulation and hit a really good putt,” Leonard said. “I thought I made the putt and the ball was halfway there, and unfortunately it didn’t go in but, you know, was able to hit some good shots in the playoff and make a nice putt there at 11.”
Given a reprieve in the playoff, Leonard dropped a 19-foot birdie into the cup and then watched as Immelman missed his chance to extend the playoff.
All three had parred the first playoff hole.
Immelman had made a dramatic late charge with birdies at the last three holes of regulation, curling in a 23-footer at 18 to join the playoff.
Earlier the Masters champ had appeared to shoot himself out of the tournament with a double-bogey on the par-5 third, but his sizzling finish overcame the hiccup.
“Well, obviously just a thrill for me to give myself a chance playing the last three was ... exciting for me,” Immelman said. “I thought I would have to make my putt to tie. Justin went ahead and made it. That didn’t affect me at all. I was comfortable with my line. I felt it was just left edge, and I thought I hit a pretty good putt.”
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