Molder wins lengthy playoff; Tiger finds stroke|
San Martin, CA (Sports Network) - Bryce Molder has endured numerous top 10
finishes without a win on the PGA Tour, two blown 54-hole leads and a
stretch of 10 missed cuts in 13 2011 events.
In the last couple months, however, he's finally played better, and it paid
off on Sunday.
Molder emerged from an epic six-hole playoff with a winning birdie on the last
to beat third-round leader Briny Baird and win the Frys.com Open, his first
win on the PGA Tour after an up-and-down career.
The 32-year-old Arkansas native shot a seven-under 64 Sunday to finish 72
holes at 17-under 267 along with Baird (67) before winning to earn a two-year
exemption on the PGA Tour. Although it was all but certain Molder would
retain his tour card for 2012 with his standing on the money list, it's a
relief to maintain it for 2013, as well.
"It's a little surreal right now,"Baird said in a televised interview. "It was
a lot of fun, but I don't even know what to say."
A four-time first-team All-American and teammate of Matt Kuchar at Georgia,
Molder has spent a considerable portion of his early career on the Nationwide
Tour, including a second stint following a poor rookie year on the PGA Tour in
2007. He made it back in 2009 and has been there ever since, but was unable to
push through for a victory.
Following the aforementioned stretch of 10 cuts missed in 13 events, Molder
posted four top-10 finishes in eight tournaments, finally culminating in
Tiger Woods became an afterthought on Sunday, overshadowed by the playoff and
his relative non-contention. He finished tied for 30th at seven-under 277
after his third straight 68 in the final round, but had an odd moment occur on
the seventh green.
A fan tossed a hot dog toward Woods, though it didn't hit the former world No.
1. The spectator was immediately arrested, and Woods missed the putt he had
lined up for moments before.
"Some guy just came running on the green, and he had a hot dog, and evidently
-- I don't know how he tried to throw it, but I was kind of focusing on my
putt when he started yelling," Woods said.
"Next thing I know he laid on the ground, and looked like he wanted to be
arrested really because he laid on the ground, put his hands behind his back
and turned his head."
While Molder's day ended in pure joy, Baird's ended in utter disappointment;
Baird was making his 348th start on tour this week and is the tour's all-time
leading money collector for players without a win. This was the closest he had
ever come to finally ending the drought, but still came up just short.
"I played really well. I'm disappointed...I'm more than disappointed," said a
misty-eyed Baird on the 18th green in a televised interview. "It's upsetting
because I honestly thought I'd be standing where Bryce is. You've got to make
putts. I did a lot of good stuff this week, and I'm happy for that."
Baird, however, needed an incredible shot just to make the playoff and had
several chances once he advanced to the extra holes.
He entered the par-four 17th hole trailing Molder by one and hit his tee shot
onto the ridge just over the lake and just shy of the green. His ensuing chip
landed a foot shy of the pin before rolling in for an eagle, giving Baird a
one-stroke lead as Molder played the last.
Molder heard the crowd's roar and knew he needed to make birdie to have any
hope of forcing a playoff. He subsequently knocked his approach to 11 feet and
drained the clutch putt to get to 17-under.
"I knew I had to make it," Molder said on television. "Those are the fun ones.
It's fun to get excited that you know you have to do it, then do it."
Little did the two players know -- it was only the beginning.
The playoff alternated between the 17th and 18th holes, both par-fours, with
the drive-able 17th coming first. Molder had the first opportunity to win on
the first playoff hole, but pulled a 22-foot eagle putt just short.
They moved to the 18th, and Baird had what proved to be his best opportunity
for the win -- a six-foot birdie putt. With his first win on his putter, the
ball lipped out the left side, strikingly resemblant of how close he
Molder missed a 14-foot putt on the third playoff hole that would have sealed
the victory, and Baird ran into some more bad luck on the fourth. Molder's
shot went near the hazard line and into the deepest rough on the hole; with
his chances of advancing to the green appearing slim, Molder managed to blast
out to the front of the green.
Baird, meanwhile, was in the fairway and hit the flagstick in the air on his
second, making the ball roll back some 25 feet away. Both players two-putted
for par to force a fifth playoff hole.
Both players found the same line to the hole off the tee at No. 17, but both
two-putted for the birdie. It led to the sixth and ultimately final playoff
hole, No. 18, where Baird found the rough and Molder the fairway off the tee.
Baird could manage to get to only the front of the green, and Molder's
approach landed six feet away. Baird's first putt stopped six feet short of
the hole, and he made the next putt to put the pressure back on Molder.
But finally, Molder did not falter, putting the ball in the center of the cup
to end the marathon just as the sun was setting in California.
"I've been working really hard inside just being able to be comfortable with
who I am, good shots, bad shots doesn't change who I am," Molder said on TV.
"I woke up this morning just looking forward to being here, and it took a long
time to get to this point. I'm very fortunate."
While Woods was a non-factor all afternoon, it was promising for his
Presidents Cup prospects that he shot his third straight three-under 68.
He began the day on fire, starting with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 10th.
Three birdies in the next five holes followed, getting him to eight-under as
he made the turn.
Woods wasn't in contention at that point, but he showed that he could be
consistent over the course of a tournament. He slowed down considerably over
the back stretch with only a birdie and two bogeys on the last 10 holes, but
he felt good after his first Fall Series event.
"I played really well today," Woods said. "Unfortunately, just kind of
sputtered there in the momentum there at 16. So I was rolling there. I was
one-under for the day. If I make par there, go birdie 17. Who knows? But,
unfortunately, it didn't happen that way."
Bud Cauley (66) finished third at 15-under 269, while Shane Bertsch (64) and
Ernie Els (68) shared fourth at minus-14.
NOTES: Baird entered the week 148th on the money list, so he likely secured
his 2012 tour card with the runner-up finish...Both Baird and Molder were
participating in their first playoff...Baird is now 0-for-3 with the 54-hole
lead, though this was the first occurrence since 2004...Next week is the
McGladery Classic, which was won by Heath Slocum last year.
10/09 22:46:49 ET