Unknown Merritt takes first PGA win at National

Troy Merritt AFP PHOTO

Troy Merritt AFP PHOTO

GAINESVILLE, United States: American Troy Merritt, who missed the cut in his prior five starts, shot a four-under par 67 on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to win the Quicken Loans National and capture his first PGA title.

The unheralded 29-year-old held off US star Rickie Fowler and Swede David Lingmerth over the back nine, closing with a 35-foot birdie putt to become the 10th first-time winner on the US PGA Tour this season but the first in the history of the National.

“When it happens, you’re not thinking,” Merritt said of his breakthrough win moment. “You really don’t even know what your name is. I was just really happy.”

World number 180 Merritt, who fired a tournament-record 61 on Saturday, finished 72 holes at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on 18-under 266 for a three-stroke victory over Fowler with Lingmerth third on 270.

“I really made some golf shots coming in, battled all the way to the end,” Merritt said. “In true Rickie fashion he never gave up. It’s great to battle a great player all the way to the end.”

England’s Justin Rose, the 2013 winner, shared fourth on 272 with New Zealand’s Danny Lee, Sweden’s Carl Pettersson and Americans Bill Haas, Justin Thomas, and Jason Bohn. Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa was another stroke back in 10th.

Merritt, whose best prior finish was second at Memphis last year, tweaked his putting stance Tuesday after weeks of frustration and it paid instant benefits, qualifying him for his first major in two weeks at the PGA Championship.

“You just don’t give up,” Merritt said. “You keep grinding.”

Lingmerth, who won his first PGA title in June at the Memorial, and Fowler, who won the Players Championship in May and the Scottish Open last month, each shot 69s.

Fowler birdied five of the last eight holes but made bogeys on four of the seven before that, his charge too little and too late.

“I was able to rally and make some birdies coming in but really disappointed with how I went out,” Fowler said. “Nice to kind of turn things around. Had to at least scare Troy a little bit.”

Tiger makes strides with 68
Tournament host Tiger Woods birdied five of the first 10 holes, including a 42-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth, but then made bogeys on three of the next four. He answered with an eight-foot birdie putt at 17 but settled for a 68 to share 18th on eight-under 276, his lowest 72 holes in relation to par at a PGA event since the 2013 BMW Championship.

“Felt like I made some big strides,” Woods said of the week. “It was a mixed bag as far as results but the fact I had total control of the golf ball was nice.”

Woods, a 14-time major champion, has slumped to 266th in world rankings due to injuries and swing changes. He has 79 career PGA Tour titles, three shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record, but has not won a title since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational and has not won a major since the 2008 US Open.

Haas birdied six of the first 10 holes to seize a share of the lead with Merritt, who opened with a birdie, added another at the par-5 fifth and another at the seventh.

But Haas had four bogeys in five holes starting at the 12th to fall out of contention, leaving Merritt to hold on. He took a bogey at 12 but was three feet from the cup to birdie the par-3 16th. Fowler sank a 23-foot birdie putt at 18 to pull within two but Merritt topped him to win in dramatic style.



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