(Reuters) - Journeyman Brian Stuard clinched his first PGA Tour title with a gripping playoff victory over fellow American Jamie Lovemark and South Korean An Byeong-hun at the weather-plagued Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Monday.
The 33-year-old Stuard sealed the win on the second extra hole at the TPC Louisiana, the par-five 18th, after laying up in two, hitting a superb third shot to three feet and knocking in the birdie putt.
“This means a lot,” an emotional Stuard told Golf Channel after earning a winner’s cheque for $1.26 million, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a spot at next year’s Masters.
“It means a lot of hard work by a lot of people to support me. Playing out of the (PGA Tour’s) 125-150 category and then winning this week, that makes this year and next year easy, I guess. I don’t what to say.
“I didn’t start out great today or yesterday morning, I just kind of hung in there. My short game was awesome this week and my putter was great,” said Stuard, who went bogey-free throughout the tournament.
Lovemark parred the second extra hole after overshooting the green with his second, failing to reach the putting surface with his third and then chipping four feet past the cup.
An was ousted from the playoff after recording a bogey on the first extra hole, also the 18th.
The trio had finished the 54 regulation holes at 15-under-201, An firing a seven-under 65, Stuard a 69 and Lovemark closing with a 68 after three-putting the final hole for a par.
Stuard, who turned professional in 2005, had twice been a runner-up on the PGA Tour but had mainly struggled on the U.S. circuit this season until he found a new putter last week in San Antonio.
“My putting has kind of felt like it’s been coming around, so I think last week was a good buildup to this week,” said Stuard, who made 44 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.
American Bobby Wyatt finished alone in fourth at 14 under after carding a 64 with Australian world number one Jason Day (66), Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas (70) and American Chris Kirk (65) a further stroke back.
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans was shortened to 54 holes and extended into a Monday finish after thunderstorms disrupted three of the first four days of scheduled play.
It was the first Monday finish at the event since 2004.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue