Stanley beats Howell in Quicken Loans National playoff
By Adam Zielonka
Jul 02, 2017 at 8:52 PM
POTOMAC — Kyle Stanley teared up on the CBS telecast, and he still got emotional from time to time later in the press tent.
"I wish I didn't cry so much, to be honest," he admitted.
Stanley defeated Charles Howell III on the first playoff hole to win the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms on Sunday, grabbing his first PGA Tour victory in five years at the end of a day with seemingly endless lead changes.
Stanley, Howell, Martin Laird and Sung Kang qualified for this month's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale by being the top four finishers without a prior Open exemption.
Stanley and Howell returned to the 18th hole for their playoff. After Stanley's tee shot took off far right of the fairway, he rescued himself with a 203-yard 8-iron shot just over the green, and then a chip to within five feet of the hole. He saved par after Howell barely missed a 12-foot par attempt.
On a day when low scores were the norm, many of the leading contenders — David Lingmerth, Daniel Summerhays, Spencer Levin and Curtis Luck — fell back to the pack or otherwise failed to capitalize.
That opened the door for final-round playing partners Stanley and Howell. Stanley rebounded from an opening-hole bogey to birdie five holes between the fifth and 14th. Howell III joined Stanley at 7-under on 14 when he sank a 27-foot eagle putt.
They went on to par their final four holes and signed for matching 66s, leading to the playoff.
It was Howell's 16th second-place finish in his 18-year tour career; he last won in 2007. But considering it was his first outing since missing almost three months with a rib injury, it was a fine finish.
"I'm shocked I was here because I started hitting balls maybe eight days ago, eight, nine days ago," Howell said.
A 29-year-old from Washington state, Stanley's only other PGA Tour win came at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open. His emotions Sunday seemed bred from the trials of his past few years — he lost his tour card after 2014 and re-earned it the next year.
"I feel like my game's in really good shape. The body of work this season, there really haven't been too many weak spots," said Stanley, who had four top-10 finishes in 2017 before the Quicken Loans. "Everything's been kind of consistent."
The Open Championship will be Stanley's first major appearance since 2013, but he feels ready.
"I think British Opens are kind of fun because you have to get creative and play a non-technical style of golf, which I think I play," he said.
MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE: Fourteen golfers finished within four shots of Stanley and Howell. Rickie Fowler, the ninth-ranked golfer in the world and highest-ranked in the field, made nine birdies to charge up the leaderboard Sunday. He finished just before the rain arrived, carding a 65 to move from even to minus-five and tie for third.
A heavy pop-up rainstorm caused a five-minute rain delay just after 5:30 p.m. No rain had been forecast and officials held the golfers still on the course in place. Many of them, including Sung Kang, were without an umbrella. Kang missed a short birdie putt on 16 just before the delay began, then hit his tee shot on the par-3 17th into water and made double-bogey to fall out of contention.
However, Kang earned the fourth Open invitation because his Official World Golf Ranking was the highest of those tied at 4-under-par.
Lingmerth led the Quicken Loans for the first three rounds. He carded matching 65s on Thursday and Friday to jump out to 10-under-par and hung on to the lead by one stroke Saturday when he shot a 3-over 73. But on Sunday, bogeys on the first and fifth holes and a double-bogey on 11 forced him out of the top spot. He wound up with another 73 and 4-under for the tournament.
A gaggle of golfers joined Lingmerth at that number: Kang, Levin, Luck, Marc Leishman, Keegan Bradley, Johnson Wagner and Ben Martin.
"Yeah, this one's going to sting a little bit," said Lingmerth, who previously won a Web.com tournament at TPC Potomac in 2012. "I think it's going to sting for a few days. I wish I could have won here this week, but I'm hoping I can come back here at another time and try to do it again."
HURLEY TIES FOR 63RD: Billy Hurley III sank a 12-foot putt to birdie his final hole of the week, and a cheer rang out from the crowd at 18, a suitable way for the local favorite to wrap up a rocky week.
"It beats the alternative," Hurley cracked after his round.
Hurley, the 2016 Quicken Loans National champion, also made an eagle on the 14th hole but shot a 73 in the final round and finished the tournament 9-over-par (73-72-71-73).
The Leesburg, Virginia native and Annapolis resident made headlines last year when he earned his first and only PGA Tour win at the 2016 event at Congressional Country Club.
No. 14 played just 284 yards Sunday, the shortest par-4 on the course, and Hurley, the Naval Academy graduate and former lieutenant, drove the green for the first time all week. He made his resulting eight-footer for eagle, just three holes after a triple bogey hampered his round.
A sizeable contingent of Hurley fans followed the veteran around the course all week, even when he was out of contention on the weekend. Hurley said his family and his wife's family were on-hand. Many fans wore a hat emblazoned with his "BH3" logo — a numeral three stands out from the B in Navy gold — and others sported Navy apparel.
This included Rob Blanck, Navy's associate head coach for women's soccer. Blanck attended the final round with his two young sons, who waited to see Hurley for an autograph after he signed his scorecard.
"Whenever Billy gets on TV he gets extra attention [from the boys], so they wanted to come and lay eyes on him," Blanck said, adding that any time an Academy athlete does well, fellow athletes are eager to support them.
Hurley, the 125th-ranked player in the world entering the Quicken Loans, was asked if his presence on tour has any positive effect on the golf community in Annapolis and the state.
"I think so. I'd like to think so," Hurley said. "I guess there's no real way to know for sure, but there was a lot of supporting people out there for me, so that was nice."
In the meantime, Hurley has just one top-10 finish on tour this year. His next stop is at the Greenbrier Classic next week in West Virginia.