DETROIT (AP) — Cam Davis holed a 50-foot sand shot on the 71st hole of regulation and that propelled him into a five-hole playoff where he outlasted Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic for his first PGA Tour victory.
“It’s the only reason I’m sitting here now,” Davis said at a news conference alongside the trophy. “To be honest, in my head there wasn’t a thought of trying to hole it.”
Davis ultimately won when Merritt missed a 6-foot par putt on the fifth playoff hole.
Davis missed putts to win on each of the playoff holes, but maintained his composure because he knew good shots set up putts he just missed.
The 26-year-old Australian left 6- and 18-foot putts high, a 25-foot putt low and a 19-footer high. He misread a break on a 12-foot putt on the fifth playoff hole and settled for a par, then won when Merritt made bogey.
“I just tried to put as much out of my mind as I could and just hit every shot for what it was worth,” Davis said. “As simple as that’s said, it’s so hard to do when the pressure’s on like that. I just kept on putting good swings on it.
“I guess I didn’t make any putts, but I kept on putting it in play, so it worked out all right.”
Davis closed with a 5-under 67 to match Merritt (68) and Niemann (68) at 18-under 270 at Detroit Golf Club. Niemann dropped out of the playoff with a bogey on the first extra hole, his first bogey of the week.
“It’s hard to be standing here knowing that there is a playoff going on right now,” Niemann told reporters.
Niemann had a chance to win it on the 72nd hole, but left a 17-foot putt high.
“I should have won this tournament, but I mean, it is what it is,” Niemann said. “I’m going to go rest next week and try to do my best for the (British) Open and the Olympics.”
Niemann had two shots that went 569 yards at 17 and he two-putted from 14 feet to take the lead at 18 under, but he quickly had company.
Merritt, who was in the final group with Niemann, made his fourth birdie in a five-hole stretch to share the lead at 17.
Davis joined the leaders with the eagle-birdie finish.
“I’ve been in some good positions before, but to play the golf that I played coming down the stretch was just awesome,” said Davis, who entered the tournament with four top-10 finishes the past two years.
The 35-year-old Merritt was shooting for his third PGA Tour win and first since 2018. He has been in contention lately, but has come up just short.
“It’s been a nice couple two months, four top-10s, now nice finish this week,” he said. “I just hope for that win. We’re knocking on the door.”
The 22-year-old Niemann shared the second- and third-round lead and was runner-up for the third time, including coming up short in a playoff at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Last week at the Travelers Championship, Harris English beat Kramer Hickok in an eight-hole playoff that tied the second-longest sudden death in PGA Tour history. Hickock stuck around to watch the playoff in Detroit after finishing 6 under.
Alex Noren (64) had a share of the lead at 17. He got out of the heat and humidity, but planned to leave the comfortable clubhouse as soon someone was a stroke ahead of him and that happened with a trio of competitors. Noren tied for fourth with Hank Lebioda (68).
Bubba Watson surged up the leaderboard earlier on the hot and steamy afternoon with a 64 to put him at 16 under. That briefly gave him a share of the lead, and he tied for sixth with Brandon Hagy (68).
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