Rookie Keegan Bradley defied the odds to clinch his maiden PGA Tour title with a gripping playoff victory over fellow American Ryan Palmer at the wind-buffeted Byron Nelson Championship on Sunday.
Bradley, 24, triumphed with a par at the first extra hole, the difficult par-four 18th, where Palmer bogeyed after hitting his second shot into water to the left of the green.
Both players had ended up among trees to the right of the fairway off the tee, but Bradley, ranked 203rd in the world, cleverly hooked his second shot to just off the front left of the green.
Palmer, despite benefiting from a clear view of the pin for his approach, pulled a choked-down six-iron into water, took a penalty drop and hit his fourth shot to 12 feet above the pin.
Although Palmer did well to sink the bogey putt, Bradley coolly knocked in a three-footer for victory after coaxing a lag putt from 54 feet close to the cup.
“I don’t know what to say,” an emotional Bradley said greenside after earning the winner’s check for US$1.17 million and a place in next year’s US Masters.
“I am so happy and I can’t believe this just happened, I really can’t. This is a dream come true. I have been waiting for this my whole life,” added the slender American, who is a nephew of LPGA great and World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley.
World No. 62 Palmer, who had been bidding for his fourth PGA Tour title, had to settle for second place at an event where he had made only one cut in his seven previous starts.
The playoff pair had finished the 72 regulation holes at the TPC Four Seasons Resort on three-under-par 277, Bradley closing with a 68 and overnight leader Palmer sinking a six-foot birdie putt at the last for a 72.
Japan’s Ryuji Imada, who had been one ahead with two holes to play, finished bogey-bogey for a 71 to share third place at two-under with American Joe Ogilvie (70).
For a second day in a row, -unpredictable gusting winds gave the players plenty of trouble and dropped shots were plentiful on a firm and fast-running layout.
Palmer, Ogilvie and Imada all held at least a share of the lead on a wildly fluctuating front nine before the Japanese edged ahead following respective bogeys by the Americans at 11 and 13.
Moments later, Imada forged two strokes clear by sinking a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-three 13th.
However, he bogeyed the 15th after pushing his drive into a treeline and taking two more shots to reach the green, and also the par-three 17th where he three-putted from long range.
Imada had conjured a superb approach putt at the 17th from 73 feet, his ball cresting the top of a slope before breaking sharply to the right and ending up just three feet from the cup.
However, his short par putt horse-shoed out, dropping him back into a three-way tie for the lead at four-under with Bradley and Palmer.