Wesley Bryan Completes Journey From Trick Shot Star to PGA Tour Winner
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
LUKE DONALD finished second in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links for the fifth time after a final round of 68 saw him come up one short of winner Wes Bryan, claiming his first victory in his rookie season.
The Englishman looked to be out of the running after dropping two shots at the par-five third hole but he battled back brilliantly, rifling a succession of iron shots close and holing a bunker shot for a birdie. But Bryan, who until last year was probably more famous as a trick-shot specialist than a tournament player, produced a superb final round of 67 that was good enough to secure his future.
Ian Poulter needed to finish no worse than 12th to win enough money to secure his playing rights for the rest of the season. He is playing on a medical exemption after missing most of last year with an ankle injury. Poulter started his round with a birdie and looked to be on course to comfortably finish inside the top 10, but he three-putted several greens and missed a succession of birdie putts. He eventually signed for a 73 that saw him end the week on eight under par, which was one shot more than he needed.
It means that he will tee it up in the Valero Texas Open on Thursday knowing that he must make at least $40,000 to keep playing on the PGA Tour. Failure to do so will see him having to depend on sponsors' invitations for the rest of 2017. "I am spitting feathers," he said after his round. "It is not just that I finished with a 73 but the fact that I genuinely felt that I played well enough to win this tournament, but my putting let me down badly. Apart from the three putts, which were unforgivable, I gave myself a succession of birdie chances and didn't look like holing any of them."
Many pundits have suggested that it is only a matter of time before the hugely gifted Ollie Schneiderjans wins for the first time. Playing in only his 25th professional event, Schniederjans got off to a terrific start and led the tournament when he raced to the turn in 31 shots. But Harbour Town is rated as one of the most difficult courses on the PGA Tour and the youngster found out why on the back nine, dropping two shots to finish on 11 under par, two behind Bryan.
Meanwhile on the European Tour, Edoardo Molinari claimed his first win in seven years in dramatic style at the Trophee Hassan II in Rabat when he beat Paul Dunne in a playoff. The Italian carded an eagle on the 72nd hole to draw level with Dunne, the Irishman who led The Open as an amateur after 54 holes at St Andrews in 2015.
Molinari played for Europe in the Ryder Cup in 2010 but life has been a struggle for him since then. But he rolled back the years on the back nine with two birdies and two eagles as Dunne came up agonisingly short in his bid to win his first European Tour title at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
The Italian forced extra holes by draining a 25-foot putt on the 18th. It gave him a 68 and a 72-hole total of nine under par. Both players struggled on the first extra hole but Molinari left himself with an easier par chance than Dunne. When 24-year-old Dunne missed his eight-foot par putt, Molinari was left to knock in the winning putt for a third European Tour victory. It is a remarkable turnaround for Molinari, who was twice forced to go back to qualifying school to retain his playing rights.
Unsurprisingly, Molinari was delighted with his performance. “It's fantastic," he said. "I've been through some very hard times with injuries and bad form. To be able to win this week deletes a lot of bad memories and hopefully I can keep going down this road.
“Given the circumstances it's probably one of the best back nines I’ve ever had. After the 12th hole I thought I had a chance, then I missed a short putt at the 13th. I had another chance on 15 – didn't make it – then when you bogey 16, you think it's almost over because on the 17th today you'd be happy with a par.
“I managed to hit a great five iron to seven or eight feet and I made the putt. That gave me a boost going down the last – I still had a chance. I thought ‘if I can make a three here then suddenly it's wide open’.
“It just shows that you should never give up, you should always keep trying, keep working hard. I've probably been the player who has spent the most time on the driving range over the last three years. This is a great reward for so much hard work.
“It's been a long time. Sometimes you doubt yourself and think these times are never going to come back.”
And Dunne? “I gave myself a chance and I hit some great shots coming in," he said. "I missed a birdie putt at 16 and from there I knew it was going to be a struggle. It would have been nice to roll that putt in on 18 and make a four but it was a good week – I’m incredibly disappointed to fall short again but what can you do.
“The swing I made on 17 was probably my best shot of the day. I tried to be quite aggressive with my shot, I tried to force a score. There was some real quality stuff in there but there was some stuff that let me down at the end which is quite frustrating.
“It was a fantastic week. The course has been fantastic, it’s been looked after so well. It’s one of those great weeks that I’ll always come back to.”
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