PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - American Rickie Fowler produced a stunning finish to claim the lucrative Players Championship in a playoff at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday.
The 26-year-old outlasted 2008 champion Sergio Garcia and world number 123 Kevin Kisner in extra holes after finishing his final six holes of regulation in six-under-par.
In a week where he was labeled “overrated” in an anonymous player poll, Fowler clinched victory on the famous 17th island green with his third birdie on the hole in the day, taking home $1.8 million.
Fowler faced a nervous wait after finishing eagle, birdie, birdie across the daunting last three holes in regulation to shoot a five-under 67 and post 12-under for the tournament.
Both Garcia (68) and Kisner (69) had putts on the 18th green that would ultimately have given them the tournament but the Spaniard’s 19-foot effort missed and Kisner’s 10-foot attempt hung agonizingly on the lip.
The trio then headed to a three-hole aggregate playoff over holes 16-18 where Fowler and Kisner managed to birdie the 17th to stay alive as Garcia managed only three pars.
When they returned to 17 in sudden death, Kisner missed a 12-foot birdie attempt to leave the door open for Fowler to drain a four-footer and win his second U.S PGA tour title.
“I felt really good all week, it’s pretty fun, this is special,” said the Fowler, whose previous win came at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, also after a playoff.
“I laughed at the poll, but, yeah, if there was any question, I think this right here answers anything you need to know.
“I was always looked at as only having one win on tour, and I always felt that I needed to put myself in position to win more often, and I did that last year.
“I wasn’t able to end up as the last guy standing then but it feels good to be back in that position, and I’m hoping to be back in the same position more often.”
Americans Ben Martin (70) and Bill Haas (70) tied for fourth at 11-under with South African Rory Sabbatini (69) and American Kevin Na (71) sixth at nine-under.
Martin bogeyed the 18th to fall out of the playoff and former FedEx Cup champion Haas had a putt from the fringe to join it but it failed to drop.
Overnight leader Chris Kirk had a day to forget, shooting 75 to drop five shots off the pace.
Fowler said the win would give him confidence at the remaining three majors of the season having finished in the top five of all four in 2014.
“It’s only going to help move me forward,” Fowler said.
“I look at this event as basically like a major. It has the major feel, obviously one of the best fields we play all year, on a tough golf course.
“This will definitely give me momentum going into the U.S. Open and makes me feel confident about being in this situation and taking care of business.”
Editing by Gene Cherry/Nick Mulvenney