REUTERS – Argentina’s Fabian Gomez clinched his second PGA Tour title with a gripping playoff victory over Brandt Snedeker at the Sony Open in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday after producing a clutch birdie-birdie finish in regulation.
Gomez, who had squandered a two-stroke lead with six holes to play, comfortably two-putted for birdie on the second extra hole at Waialae Country Club, the par-five 18th, where Snedeker narrowly missed his attempt from 10 feet.
“I am very proud of myself,” an emotional Gomez told Golf Channel, speaking through an interpreter. “My caddie’s father passed away recently, just a few weeks ago, and this win is in his name.
“I felt pretty good during the round but with those two bogeys (on 13 and 14), I lost momentum and I felt a little nervous towards the end. But that birdie putt on 17 then gave me confidence.”
Both Gomez, from 15 feet, and Snedeker, from 12, had earlier missed birdie putts on the first extra hole, also the 18th.
The duo had finished the 72 regulation holes at 20-under 260, American Snedeker carding a four-under 66 and Gomez, who landed his first PGA Tour win at last year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, signing off with a scintillating 10-birdie 62.
Little-known American Zac Blair, seeking his first victory on the U.S. circuit, led by two shots after eight holes and stayed in contention before finishing alone in third at 19 under with a closing 67.
A wildly fluctuating final round at Waialae effectively boiled down to a three-horse race between Gomez, Snedeker and Blair.
Snedeker and Blair, co-leaders overnight, stumbled early with bogeys at the par-three fourth, before Blair made his move with birdies at the fifth, seventh and eighth, where he drained a 20-footer, to forge two strokes clear at 18 under.
Gomez, however, was steadily putting together a red-hot run on the back of sharp approach play and seven consecutive birdies from the sixth gave him a two-shot cushion at 20 under.
Both Gomez, with bogeys at 13 and 14, and Blair, who faltered with a three-putt at the 14th, slipped back into a three-way share of the lead with Snedeker, who sank an eight-footer to birdie 14.
All three produced some exhilarating golf over the closing holes.
Snedeker struck a brilliant approach to three feet to set up a birdie on 16 and edge one ahead, before Gomez got back into contention by sinking a 10-footer on 17 followed by a sensational 22-foot putt from just off the green on 18.
Blair narrowly missed an eagle attempt from 10 feet at the last that would have got him into the playoff, and Snedeker got up and down from just short of the green to birdie 18 before his usually lethal putting let him down on the extra holes.
“Obviously disappointed,” said Snedeker, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour. “I had some good looks coming down the stretch and uncharacteristically I hit some pretty weak putts.
“I fought hard, and gave myself a chance but, all in all, I couldn’t figure out a way to get it done and I didn’t do it.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)