If you were one of the three people that chose to watch the Fall Series event over football — I was driving back from Philly, but a friend gave me the riveting play-by-play over the phone — then apparently you chose wisely. With darkness closing in on the three-way playoff between Jonathan Byrd, Martin Laird and Cameron Percy at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Sin City, the cameras focused in while the three players discussed whether or not to continue to the fourth extra hole — or wait until Monday morning.
When Tour officials asked Byrd his preference, he left the decision with his playing partners. “Whatever you guys want to do,” said Byrd. Laird asked if they could quit if it was too dark when they got to the green. When the answer was yes, he voted to play.
Thanks to Byrd, the question of the being able to see on the green was never an issue. First to tee off on the par-3 17th, Byrd took a swing and the ball landed 10 feet short of the pin and disappeared into the darkness…of the cup. He squinted to see where it ended up, but it was too dark.
“It was almost like I thought I heard somebody say it went in, and then I wasn’t sure, and then my caddie said, ‘I think it went in,’ ” Byrd said. “I didn’t know.
“When I saw it go down the hill and I heard people going, ‘Aww-w-w,’ I thought it was in the water, and I thought I was going to be done,” he said. “And then right at the last second, I kind of heard somebody cheer. And they don’t cheer when it goes in the water.”
Now that’s a way to close a tournament in style. And it’s almost like hitting the $10 million jackpot on the slot machines. (And save everyone the trouble of returning on Monday.) Percy and Laird exchanged high-fives with Byrd before they teed off, but obviously they had a tough act to follow. Both of their shots found the water — which apparently was a popular place. Webb Simpson was 22-under and had a one-stroke lead before he reached the 17th in regulation play, where he pulled his shot into the drink and cost him not just the tournament, but a place in the playoff.
“Unfortunately my buddy Webb Simpson got it to 22-under and then hit it in the water on 17 and made a double,” said Byrd. “So I’m sad for him because he played so well this week.”
Byrd’s ace was also history-making. He became the first player in PGA Tour history to make a hole-in-one to win a playoff. What? No one else has pulled that off before? You know, since first of all, aces come by oh-so-often, and second of all, especially in pressure situations. But the stars were aligned for Byrd and with a good swing and the golf gods on his side, he gave the otherwise ho-hum tournament an exciting ending and storyline.
Too bad Anthony Kim wasn’t around to properly help Byrd celebrate the moment and shower him with Dom. And too bad outside of Byrd and his family and maybe a handful of others, no one really cares. It’ll probably make SportsCenter with viewers thinking, “Huh? There’s still golf?” Between football season in full gear and the Word Series kicking off on Tuesday, Byrd’s thrilling and epic feat will be lost in the shuffle.
Considering the excitement Rocco Mediate stirred last week with his hole-out for eagle on 17 to win the Frys.com Open (not to mention holing out four-days-in-a-row), the Fall Series has turned out to be pretty exciting … for the Fall Series. But seriously, I still can’t really get my head around this. Byrd aced a difficult shot in the dark in a playoff. That’s unbelievable.
To make things even more perfect, they’re in Vegas. Drinks on Byrd! I hope there was excessive champagne spraying — like over 80K worth. After all, Byrd deserves the 24-hour champagne diet.
(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)