Zach Johnson admitted he had got lucky after he shot a third-round 60 but still needed a play-off to successfully defend his title at the Valero Texas Open yesterday.
A day after the 2007 Masters champion had equalled the course round at the par-70, 6,896-yard Resort Course with an eight-birdie, one-eagle round of 60, fellow American James Driscoll shook things up with an eight-under-par round of 62 to take the clubhouse lead at 15 under par.
Johnson, who had held a the 54-hole lead by two strokes from Paul Goydos, failed to continue the momentum he had enjoyed the previous evening, his closing round of 70 sending him into sudden death with Driscoll.
The defending champion had won his only previous play-off, at the 2007 AT&T Classic, while Driscoll had lost his, at the 2004 Zurich Classic and Johnson put himself in perfect position for a second such win with an approach shot to 10 feet.
Driscoll had a chance to reflect the pressure back on his rival from 22 feet but his putt broke right, leaving Johnson to successfully putt out for birdie and the seventh PGA Tour victory of his career.
“That was kind of a day just to get myself in position for today,” Johnson said of Saturday’s play.
“Didn’t anticipate a 60. I mean who ever does?
“I felt good coming into today. I know it’s hard to back up a round like that, and I certainly didn’t play my best today.
“But there were times there when I could have gone further south, and I managed to, whether it was a one-two putt or a difficult shot or taking my medicine when I got myself in trouble, you know, I kind of just remained patient and persevered, so I feel very lucky.”
Johnson had completed his round on Saturday night at the end of a day when threats of lightning and thunderstorms in San Antonio brought play to a halt for almost five hours.
His 60 gave him the clubhouse lead, the final putt rolling in as the hooter sounded to call play to a halt due to fading light, leaving his rivals to return on Sunday morning to complete their third-round play.
With all those rounds in the books, the 2007 Masters champion was the 54-hole leader at 15-under, two strokes clear of halfway leader Paul Goydos with Justin Leonard another shot back at 12-under par.
Playing in three-man groups from both tees to make up the lost time from Saturday, Johnson teed off for his final round with Goydos and Leonard but was not able to continue the momentum of the previous evening.
Level par for the day on his front nine, he bogeyed the par-four 10th to fall to 14-under, alongside Goydos, one-under for the day.
Driscoll had joined Johnson in the lead with one hole left to play, seven-under for the day after five birdies and an eagle at the par-five 14th and he moved into the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt at the last.
Johnson got back to 15-under and a share of the lead with Driscoll after holing out from 13 feet from the fringe of the green but Goydos’ round suddenly came to life on the closing holes with birdies at the 14th and 16th to move into the outright lead at 16 under.
Just as the lead came to him, Goydos threw it away, bogeying the 17th and 18th to finish at 14-under and in a tie for third alongside Bill Haas who had produced a final-round 65.
Leonard, the first round co-leader with Goydos, closed with a 69, in a tie for fifth place at 13-under-par alongside England’s Brian Davis, who had birdied the ninth, his 72nd hole, for a 66, his second consecutive top-10 finish following his tie for fifth at last week’s Players Championship.
Greg Owen’s tournament ended in disappointment, a final-round, two-over 72, sending the Englishman down the leaderboard into a tie for 32nd at seven-under.