Snedeker tops Donald to win Heritage playoff
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Brandt Snedeker rallied from six shots behind and beat Luke Donald in a playoff in The Heritage to deny the Englishman the No. 1 ranking Sunday.
Donald would’ve risen to the top spot in the world from No. 3 had he won. His countryman, Lee Westwood, moved from No. 2 to No. 1, replacing Martin Kaymer, after winning the Indonesian Masters earlier Sunday.
Donald saved par from difficult spots on the 71st and 72nd holes to force the playoff, then did it again on the second extra hole. But his luck ran out on Harbour Town Golf Links’ closing lighthouse hole, No. 18, when he got a partially buried lie in a front bunker.
Donald blasted out about 15 feet from the flag and his chip for par from just off the green hit the back edge of the cup and bounced away, giving Snedeker his second career PGA Tour title and first since the 2007 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
Snedeker said he was more worried about getting to New Orleans for next week’s event when he woke up Sunday than contending for the title Sunday.
“Kind of came out of nowhere,” Snedeker said.
He finished with a 7-under 64, tying for lowest of the tournament, to match Donald at 12 under. Donald shot his second straight 70.
Tommy Gainey finished a stroke back after a 68.
“It was going to be some big rewards if I won today,” Donald said. “But I’ll try and find the positives from this week and move on.”
This figured to come down to a final-round duel between the final pair of third-round leader Donald and defending champion Jim Furyk, who was only a stroke behind.
But Snedeker, who started 10 groups before the leaders, pushed his way into contention with seven birdies over his first 12 holes. He rolled in 12-footer for par on his 72nd hole and headed to the clubhouse to wait.
Donald certainly kept him on the edge of his seat.
After Donald reached 12 under with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th, he missed putts for birdie on the 15th and 16th holes. Then Donald looked like he’d shoot himself out of it, sending his tee shot on the par-3 17th off the back, then landing his approach into the bunker in front of No. 18. Both times Donald chipped within 4 feet to save par.
Snedeker and Donald traded birdies on the first extra hole, the 18th, and pars on the second one, the 17th.
Snedeker hit the green on the last playoff hole and two-putted for par to win $1,026,000. The biggest question facing Snedeker now is whether he’ll be back to defend his title.
The Heritage is without a title sponsor, something PGA Tour and event leaders say is essential for its return in 2012. There was talk all week of a Sunday surprise, an announcement of a backer to give assurances to pros. None was forthcoming, though, and tournament director Steve Wilmot said “the sponsorship search continues in earnest.”
Gainey, bidding to become the first South Carolina native to win the state’s PGA Tour event, missed a 15-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would’ve put him to the playoff.
“I would have loved to have won,” said Gainey, who gained fame as “Two Gloves” on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series. “I think it’s the second best tournament on tour” behind the Masters.
Furyk finished with his highest score, 76, his past 33 rounds at Harbour Town to fall from contention. “I just kind of got on a bad roll and it snowballed on me today,” he said.
Tim Herron (67) and Ricky Barnes (69) tied for fourth, two shots out of the playoff.
Snedeker said he faced softer conditions with his earlier tee time that fueled his hot start. He had birdies on the second, third and fourth holes to move within two of the lead, then added birdies on Nos. 6, 7, and 9 to finish the front side at 30 and put himself alongside Donald on top of the leaderboard.
Things weren’t as easy for Snedeker on the back. He took bogey on the 13th and 16th holes, but rallied one last time with the birdie on the difficult 18th.
DIVOTS: Ian Poulter, 16th in the world this week, struggled on the weekend with a 75-71 after going 7 under the first two rounds. Maybe the problem was supernatural. Poulter tweeted several times that he thought the house he was in this week was haunted. Poulter says the house had a dead-bolted door and every time he gets up “the door is unlocked and slightly open.” He says it happened seven times this week. Spooky. ... U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, No. 5 in the world, also had troubles on the weekend, going 74-74 after opening 5-under par.