Faxon fight-back the Highlands highlight

Brian Dent

Entering Sunday’s final round seven shots behind Justin Rose, Faxon made his charge by carding a nine-under-par 61, the lowest round of his career. He shot a 62 in the second round at Provident Classic back in 1986.

“Today, I think more than any other day I’ve played in a long time, I didn’t ever get ahead of myself,” Faxon said.

“I’ve been notorious this year for when I’ve played well, starting to think about holes coming up or what could happen, and I did a great job staying in the present.”

However, Faxon’s huge round that matched the course record was not enough to win in regulation, since van der Walt recovered from a bogey at the par-three 16th to birdie numbers 17 and 18 and force the playoff.

Back at the 434-yard par-four 18th, Faxon drove his second shot from a fairway bunker from 169 yards to within three feet of the cup. Van der Walt answered by driving his second shot off the flag to within eight feet.

“I guess it will hit me tonight,” van der Walt said.

“It’s not like I missed the green. I left quite a few out there still.

“He hit a great shot. From where he was, to hit it where he did, I don’t know the odds of that. But it’s a great shot, and what you have to do is probably try and top that, and I was able to. I hit the flag, just got a bit unlucky. It could have gone off the green, so at least I still had a putt at it.”

Van der Walt sent his birdie putt to the right of the hole and Faxon calmly

stepped up and sank his, giving the Rhode Island resident his first victory in 125 events dating to the 2001 Sony Open.

Faxon, who finished on the cut line to just make it to the weekend, had a 72-hole total of 14-under 266 en route to collecting the $792,000 first prize. His previous best finish this year was third at the Barclays Classic in June.

“This was really kind of out of the blue,” Faxon said. “I mean, Friday afternoon I was in my hotel room packing to go home because I thought even par would miss the cut. I actually bet Johnny Andrews that I was going to miss, and I’ll gladly pay him now.”

In 21 previous appearances at this New England tournament, Faxon’s best finish had been an eighth in 1996.

Rose, who was in search of his first career title, began the day with a one-shot lead but struggled on the front nine as Faxon and van der Walt ate into his lead. The Englishman had a chance to forge a three-way playoff at the 18th but was unable to convert a birdie putt from about 20 feet.

“I’m disappointed, but the 18th hole I gave the putt a chance, just sort of

missed on the high side,” Rose said.

“One of the few putts I got to the hole all day. I would never forgive myself if I left it short.”

Ben Curtis (69), the 2003 British Open champion, Michael Putnam (63), and Jerry Kelly (66) all finished at 12-under.

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