The Fortinet Championship was like one of those movies in which everyone thinks they know the ending, only to have the script flipped at the last possible moment.
Danny Willett needed only to make a 3-foot, 7-inch putt on the 18th green Sunday to win his first PGA Tour event since his unexpected victory in the 2016 Masters.
Just a two-putt from inside 4 feet and Willett would be in a playoff with Max Homa, who had forced the issue by holing a 33-foot pitch shot from off the 18th green for a birdie that lit up the gray Napa, California, afternoon like fireworks.
It was Willett’s moment, complete with a nearly three-year exemption on the tour to go with a fat paycheck.
Then the hole played peek-a-boo, leaving both Willett and Homa with stunned expressions on their faces.
Homa is now a five-time tour winner, having successfully defended his Fortinet victory, sending him into his first Presidents Cup on a high while Willett did his best to find the bright side on a gloomy day.
“Obviously going to remember that last (one), but good week, nice to be in contention basically all week from Friday. Yeah, just a shame how I finished, but that's golf. We're going to do it again another day,” Willett said.
“A bit disappointing finish to the round, but you're trying to hole it. Hit it a little bit too firm.”
Had Homa not holed his pitch shot after failing to get his third shot from a greenside bunker onto the putting surface, Willett likely would have won. But, golf being golf, one thing led to another, and Homa’s hole-out changed the meaning of Willett’s first putt.
“I expected him to do it, but then it's still a bit of a shock when it happens,” said Willett, whose first putt wound up farther from the hole than it started, leading to the three-putt.
For Homa, who shot 4-under 68 for a 16-under 272 total at Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course, it was another step in his evolution. He already had earned a spot at Quail Hollow Club this week where he will play for his country for the first time as a professional. His performance in Napa left no doubt about his form coming into Charlotte.
“My coach (Mark Blackburn) just said, ‘Just hang around, hang around, hang around,’ ” Homa said. “I played really good golf; I played solid. Danny and Justin (Lower) both played great, but I just tried to play my game and just see where it got me.
“I don't know. It was a wild finish.”
Ron Green Jr.