SAN DIEGO – Jason Day and Alex Noren went 77 holes in the Farmers Insurance Open, and it still wasn’t enough to decide a winner.
Day holed a 6-foot birdie putt in the dark on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday. Noren followed with a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole at Torrey Pines. They had no choice but to return Monday morning to decide the longest playoff in the 67-year history of this event.
They each made birdie three times on the par-5 closing hole in the playoff. They made pars on the 16th and 17th holes, with Day having the best chance to end it on the par-3 16th until his 12-foot putt stayed on the right edge.
Ryan Palmer began the playoff with them at 10-under 278. He was eliminated with a par on the 18th on the first extra hole.
Day closed with a 2-under 70. Palmer hit wedge to 2 feet for birdie for a 72 to get into the playoff. Noren had a 12-foot birdie attempt in regulation to avoid the playoff and narrowly missed.
By then, Tiger Woods was long gone.
It was the third playoff in three weeks on the PGA Tour, all of them lasting at least four holes. And while it was entertaining, thousands of fans weren’t around to see it. They left after Woods finished his round. In only his second PGA Tour event since August 2015, Woods closed with a 72 and tied for 23rd, seven shots out of the lead.
Woods said it was a mostly positive week, and it was hard to argue considering he was returning from his fourth back surgery. He at least was closer to the fairway in the final round, but hit only three fairways for the third straight day.
“I got a lot out of my rounds,” Woods said. “The short game wasn’t something I was worried about. I knew what I could, what I’ve been doing at home. That wasn’t going to be an issue. It was going to be, `Can I shoot low scores?’ I didn’t, but I grinded out some good rounds.”
The final hour of the tournament was a big grind.
Day, Noren, Palmer and J.B. Holmes – the latter three in the final group – were tied for the lead with six holes to go.
Day twice missed the green with a short iron in his hand, and one of those shots led to bogey. He didn’t make a birdie on the back nine in regulation. Noren appeared to have the steadiest game until he pulled his tee shot into the hazard on the 14th hole and did well to escape with bogey. Noren also made a pair of 7-foot par putts to stay in a share of the lead, and then he missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole in regulation.
Palmer, trying to win for the first time in eight years, made consecutive bogeys from the bunker on No. 14 and short of the 15th green. He came up big on the 72nd hole with a wedge to 2 feet to get into the playoff.
Holmes effectively fell out of the hunt when he missed the 15th green with a wedge and took bogey, and then missed a 4-foot par putt on the 16th hole. He needed an eagle on the final hole, and took some 4 minutes trying to decide on which club to hit. He finally, curiously, decided to lay up and try to make his 3 by holing a sand wedge. He laid up in the rough and didn’t come close to holing the shot.
Noren went next and hit his fairway metal over the green, into the tunnel below the TV tower and out the other side. He took his relief, and smartly played away from the flag to keep it from running by the hole and possibly down the slope into the water. But he missed the putt.
The fifth playoff hole was nearly too dark to play. Day played a beautiful wedge to 6 feet behind the hole and had to rely on the crowd’s cheering.
“I can’t see it,” he said to his caddie.
Noren played a 3-wood off the tee and a hybrid onto the green. His eagle putt for the win raced 5 feet by, and the Swede calmly rolled it in, as he had done so often over the final two hours Sunday.
“It’s too dark. I could barely see the last putt,” Noren said. “But it’s very enjoyable. This is what I play for. I’m excited.”
The Sony Open took six holes before Patton Kizzire won. The CareerBuilder Challenge went four holes before Jon Rahm prevailed.
Rahm had a chance to reach No. 1 in the world with a repeat victory at Torrey Pines. He was two shots out of the lead until going into the water and making double bogey on the 18th hole of the third round. On Sunday, the 23-year-old Spaniard fell back early and never recovered. He closed with a 77.
Day is trying to end 20 months without a victory, the most recent one in May 2016 at The Players Championship when he was No. 1 in the world.
“I’ll play all day tomorrow if I need to get the win,” Day said.
Noren is a nine-time winner on the European Tour, No. 19 in the world and trying to make his mark in America.
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