Charles Howell snapped an 11-year US PGA Tour win drought Sunday in epic fashion, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to capture the RSM Classic.
The 39-year-old American had not won since Riviera in 2007 – a gap of 4,291 days – and had lost four of five prior playoffs before conquering compatriot Patrick Rodgers to win at Sea Island, Georgia.
“I just don’t even know (how I did it). I haven’t been able to pull it off in so long,” Howell said before breaking down in tears.
“It means a lot because I hung in there. It means I can still win out here.”
Squandering his lead with a bogey-double bogey start, Howell battled back all day to match Rodgers, whose 61-62 weekend nearly took him to his first PGA title. “To hang in there and turn it around, I needed some good fortune on my side and fortunately I had it,” Howell said. “I’ve failed a lot of times. It was different today.”
Howell also secured a berth in his hometown event - next year’s Masters at Augusta, Georgia - for the first time since 2012 by ending his drought after 333 events and 1,154 rounds.
It was third time charmed for Howell, who had three birdie putts on the 18th hole of the Seaside course to win the title, the first in the last round and the second on the first playoff hole before his sank the last.
“I had messed up the first two,” Howell said. “I was thinking whatever I do, don’t leave it short. I’m still shocked that putt went in.”
It was the third career PGA win for Howell, whose first came in 2002 at Williamsburg, Virginia.
Rodgers, 26, matched his career-best PGA finish with the runner-up effort after failing in his first PGA playoff. “It has been such a long building process the past year and a half. All the hard work paid off with how well I played this week,” Rodgers said. “I’m gutted to not get it done but congrats to Charles.”
Rodgers and Howell entered the playoff after each finished 72 holes on 19-under 263 on the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island, Georgia.
Webb Simpson, this year’s Players Championship winner, was third in an all-American top 10 on 264 with Ryan Blaum and Luke List sharing fourth on 265, Cameron Champ sixth on 266 and Chase Wright, Peter Uihlein, Kevin Kisner and two-time major winner Zach Johnson in seventh on 267. In a bogey-free final round, Rodgers blasted out of a bunker to birdie to par-4 second, sank a four-foot birdie putt sat the par-5 seventh and drained a 45-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth.
Rodgers followed with a birdie putt of 21 feet and 11 and a stunning 85-foot birdie effort at the par-3 12th, another another pair of back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 and closed with a seven-foot birdie putt to finish off his 62. Howell opened bogey-double bogey to squander his early lead, battling back even as Rodgers charged. He made the shots back with bordies at the fifth and sixth, the latter from 21 feet, and another from 24 feet to begin the back nine.
He birdied three in a row starting at 15 to match Rodgers for the lead and a closing par set up the playoff.
263-x-Charles Howell 64-64-68-67, Patrick Rodgers 70-70-61-62
264-Webb Simpson 68-68-63-65
265-Ryan Blaum 69-65-65-66
266-Cameron Champ 68-63-66-69
267-Peter Uihlein 66-71-67-63, Chase Wright 67-69-67-64, Kevin Kisner 70-69-63-65, Zach Johnson 70-66-65-66
268-Austin Cook 66-73-65-64, Lucas Glover 69-67-67-65, Graeme McDowell (NIR) 67-68-67-66, Dominic Bozzelli 71-66-65-66, Luke List 69-68-63-65
269-Hunter Mahan 71-67-67-64, Ryan Armour 72-66-67-64, Patton Kizzire 68-72-63-66, Richy Werenski 71-69-63-66, Matt Every 69-69-65-66, Anders Albertson 70-66-66-67, David Hearn (CAN) 68-66-67-68, Jason Gore 68-63-66-72
270-Nick Watney 69-64-72-65, Jonathan Byrd 72-67-66-65, Adam Schenk 69-69-67-65, Scott Langley 70-67-67-66, Troy Merritt 69-68-69-64, Corey Conners (CAN) 69-67-70-64, Harold Varner 68-70-66-66, Kyle Jones 71-68-65-66, Brian Gay 69-67-65-69.
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