One day after recording 18 pars and falling four strokes behind the leader at the RSM Classic, Tyler Duncan needed something special to make up ground.
The 30-year-old Purdue University graduate accomplished that Sunday by making birdies on four of his last seven holes to force a playoff with Webb Simpson after both players finished at 19-under par. Shortly after, he poured home a 15-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort to secure his first PGA Tour title.
“I knew it was going to be a tough day out here with it being colder and the wind picking up,” said Duncan, who posted a closing 65. “I was just trying to do the best that I could and fight to the end. I hit one of the best 4-irons I’ve ever hit on 17 to about 6 feet up the hill and then you guys saw the probably 30-footer I needed to make on 18 just to force a playoff.”
Those two birdies will go down as the tournament-defining moments for Duncan, a journeyman who competed on what then was the Web.com Tour from 2014 to 2017 before playing full-time on the PGA Tour the past two seasons.
The final day started with 54-hole leader Brendon Todd looking for three consecutive victories, but it quickly became apparent that Todd had hit the proverbial wall. He made a double bogey on No. 5 and never recovered, ending his tournament with a 72 that left him in fourth place, three strokes back. He will start the 2020 calendar year ranked No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings after having won the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic in his previous two starts.
With Todd fading, Simpson made two birdies in his first three holes to take the lead at 18 under. He maintained a slim advantage until the back nine when Duncan and Sebastián Muñoz made their moves.
Muñoz birdied Nos. 12 and 15 to reach 18 under while Simpson went even-par through the same stretch. Playing ahead of the final group, Duncan also birdied Nos. 12 and 15 to get to 17 under.
It appeared Simpson may have put his stamp on the tournament at the par-4 16th when he holed a 22-foot birdie putt to take sole possession of the lead at 19 under. However, Duncan had other plans. His laser beam of a tee shot on the difficult par-3 17th and long birdie conversion on the par-4 18th catapulted him into a share of the lead with Simpson. Muñoz failed to make birdie on his last three holes, meaning there would be a playoff between Simpson and Duncan.
Both players hit the green at No. 18 in regulation the first time around but neither could convert his birdie opportunity. When they came back to play the 18th once again, Simpson pulled his drive and then missed the green with his approach. That opened the door for Duncan, who left himself with a great look at birdie. Just like in regulation, he made no mistake.
“Congrats to Tyler, he played great,” Simpson said. “To birdie the last two holes in regulation was awesome and then do it in the playoff was great. I just didn’t hit a good enough drive in the playoff to give myself a birdie look.”
RESULTS | MONEY LIST
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