Jan
10
2011
The Byrd Is the Word
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Jonathan Byrd beat Robert Garrigus in a two-man playoff on the second extra hole at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to take home his fifth-career PGA Tour victory. It was Byrd’s second consecutive win, as well as his second straight victory in a playoff — his walkoff ace in the three-way playoff at the Justin Timberlake Shriners for Children Hospital Open was arguably the shot of the year (wait, who did he beat in that again? Oh, right, Martin Laird and Cameron Percy). Clearly, you don’t want to play Byrd in sudden death.

Ultimately, Byrd or Garrigus weren’t preoccupied with the result. As they were walking down the 18th fairway on the first playoff hole, Byrd turned to Garrigus and said something like, “It doesn’t matter who wins because we’re playing for the glory of God,” according to his post-round interview with Golf Channel. The always-gracious Garrigus agreed with him.

“I’m pretty overwhelmed, probably, is the best word to describe it,” said Byrd in his post-round press conference. “I can’t sit here and not think about where I was towards the end of the season last year fighting for my card, and was content with that, you know, and just kind of fighting to play well and finding joy in that process, too.

“Then I win my last tournament of the year, and win it in that fashion, and then get to come to Maui to play in this event, and then feel good coming into here, and work hard in the off-season and get back in contention and find myself in another playoff to win another tournament. I’m just thankful, I’m overwhelmed, I’m grateful; all of that above.”

Tough not to respect his perspective. When I used the term “snore alert” in Golf.com’s roundtable, I obviously didn’t mean that Byrd wasn’t a deserving winner. I just thought it might help with the PGA Tour’s TV negotiations and boost interest if someone like Graeme McDowell won, especially by tying the course record (or had he made that last putt, he would have broke it to get into the playoff). Even Garrigus, whom I’ve become a huge fan of, and has an inspiring story. I guess that’s just selfish of me, though.

Byrd is underrated because of his flatliner and quiet demeanor, but no doubt a stand-up guy. He didn’t forget to mention his genuine respect for Garrigus, either, which pretty much sums up why Garrigus will quickly become a fan favorite (if he isn’t already).

“Grateful to Robert, man,” said Byrd. “What a great — what a great display of sportsmanship. He’s smiling in the playoff. He was probably smiling when he doubled the first hole yesterday and he was smiling after he missed that putt. My hat’s off to him.”

So is mine.

*****

Here’s a song I’d like to dedicate to Byrd for his victory. This should be his theme song!

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)