By Sam McPherson
Many big names appeared on the leaderboard late in the fourth round of the Wells Fargo Championship. So it was surprising to see American James Hahn emerge victorious on the first playoff hole over fellow countryman Roberto Castro. Hahn’s four-foot putt for par on the 18th green made the difference, as Castro managed only bogey.
Both Hahn and Castro tied at 9-under, holding off strong Sunday charges from multiple golf notables and fan favorites to advance to a playoff. England’s Justin Rose managed 8-under with four rounds of steady if unspectacular golf, scoring 70-70-69-71 on the par-72 Quail Hollow course, a 7,575-yard circuit that will host as the 2017 PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, both Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson shot fantastic rounds of 66 on Sunday to finish at 7-under for the tournament, along with third-round leader Rickie Fowler, who struggled to a final-round 74. Andrew Loupe’s Sunday 71 also left him tied for fourth place.
Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover finished alone in eighth place at 6-under par, giving Americans six of the top eight spots. After international players dominated the PGA Tour for most of March and April, Americans have now captured the last three tour titles.
Hahn had missed his last eight cuts on the Tour, dating back to the Waste Management Phoenix Open on February 7 where he tied for 17th. This is his second PGA Tour victory, after last season’s win at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
Sunday’s key moment for Hahn was the 52-foot eagle putt he made on the seventh green, after Fowler began to fade. McIlroy came to the 72nd hole within one shot of the lead, but bogeyed to finish two shots behind Hahn and Castro.
Mickelson also eagled the seventh on Sunday, and finished the back nine without bogeying once. However, he was in catch-up mode all day after carding an 8 on Saturday’s final hole. That blemish looked even uglier after Mickelson played so well in the final round.
Next On The Tee: The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass
It’s another big week on the PGA Tour. The Players Championship, held at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is considered the fifth major. The total purse is projected to be $10.5 million this year, with the winner alone pocketing around $1.8 million.
Fowler, the defending champ, carded four birdies and an eagle over the final six holes last year to force his way into a playoff. He won the tournament on the fourth hole of extra play with his third birdie of the day on the famed 17th hole. Other recent champions include Henrik Stenson (2009), Tim Clark (2010), K.J. Choi (2011), Matt Kuchar (2012), Tiger Woods (2013) and Martin Kaymer (2014).
This year’s field should include the top five players in the world: No. 1 Jason Day, No. 2 Jordan Spieth, No. 3 McIlroy, No. 4 Bubba Watson and No. 5 Fowler. Top Wells Fargo finishers Hahn, Mickelson and Rose, along with 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, will also be on hand. Choi, Kaymer, Kuchar and Stenson will compete for their second Players win.
The Stadium Course, designed by Pete Dye and one of the best circuits on Tour, is known worldwide as “the purest test in golf.” The 17th hole that Fowler owned last year on Sunday is the signature island hole, which can make or break a golfer’s round with swirling winds and challenging club selection.
The TPC Sawgrass Stadium course plays 7,215 yards and is a par 72.
Favorites: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler
Players to Watch: James Hahn, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.