With a three-stroke lead to begin the day, Justin Rose looked like the eventual winner of the 40th Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. After he converted an unlikely 20-foot par putt in a playoff against David Lingmerth, he looked like a sure winner again.
Lingmerth just wouldn't believe it. And he kept telling himself that it was his turn to win.
He was right.
With a five-foot par putt on the third playoff hole, the par-4 10th at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Lingmerth turned back the former U.S. Open champion and captured his first PGA TOUR title. He celebrated the breakthrough on June 7, which happened to be the birthday of his father, Thomas, and his parents' anniversary. Lingmerth's wife used FaceTime for the father to watch the press conference, and when it ended, Tournament Founder and Host Jack Nicklaus took the phone and spoke to him as Lingmerth smiled wider that he did all day.
Lingmerth, 28, of Sweden, closed with a 3-under-par 69 and 15-under 273 total. His maiden victory gave him a three-year PGA TOUR exemption. "This is surreal," he said after watching Rose make a couple of great escapes to nearly steal the win back from him.
Lingmerth had a right to feel this year's Memorial belonged to him after he opened with rounds of 67-65 to come within a stroke of Rickie Fowler's 36-hole Tournament record of 131. But when Rose, who closed with a 72, salvaged par on the final hole of regulation after shanking a shot out of a bunker, Lingmerth had to wonder if he might be in for more disappointment. Then came the 20-footer on the first playoff hole. Lingmerth had to convert from 11 feet to extend the playoff. He did just that with a perfect stroke.
After pars on the second playoff hole, also the 18th, Lingmerth got a chance to end things and didn't waste it. Rose drove poorly and was blocked by a tree and then missed the green long and left. When he couldn't get up and down, all Lingmerth had to do was two-putt for the victory, the second in a row for a first-time PGA TOUR winner and the second year in a row that the winner was determined in a playoff -- this one the second longest in Tournament history after the four-hole affair Roger Maltbie won over Hale Irwin in the inaugural Memorial.
"I was thinking to myself that I'd probably have a putt to win the tournament right there," Lingmerth said of his putt on the first playoff hole. "And then he drops it in ... and this big, huge roar. Crazy feeling. So I took a few moments just to let the crowd and myself calm down because I knew how big that next putt was going to be. I've been in a few playoffs. You win some, you lose some. But I didn't feel that it was my turn to lose this time. I was telling myself that I was going to make that putt."
"When I made that putt on the first extra hole, I thought, `Wow, I'm going to steal this one.' But it wasn't to be," said Rose, who won his first PGA TOUR title in 2010 at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
After beginning the day eight strokes back, Masters champion Jordan Spieth closed with a 65 and wound up two shots behind in a tie for third with Francesco Molinari of Italy, who was tied for the lead until hitting into the water on the 16th for a double bogey. He closed with a 71 and 275 total.