Five straight missed cuts are now firmly in Troy Merritt’s rear view mirror.
He has a new topper for his resume:
PGA Tour winner.
Merritt sent a message early then late to the rest of the field at the Quicken Loans National on Sunday that he would not be denied. He birdied the first hole, right out of the box to take the lead and never surrendered it.
Merritt outplayed overnight co-leader Kevin Chappell then stayed in front of runnerup Rickie Fowler the rest of the day, Fowler falling victim to five bogeys in his final round. Merritt, who flew past everyone with a 61 on Saturday, wrapped it up with an eight-iron tee shot at the par three 16th that came to rest within three feet of the hole. It looked for a moment like it had a chance to go in and win someone a million bucks.
If that wasn’t spectacular enough, he went ahead and holed a 30-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole to draw a huge roar and put himself at 18-under par, three better than Fowler. Merritt’s 67 gave him a weekend total of 128. It was the first time that this event produced a player winning for the first time. This has been a spot where veterans put their claim on the title.
“A battle all the way,” is how Merritt described it. He was aware of Fowler up in front of him who birdied the 14th, 16th and 18th to post 15-under. Merritt looked like Cool Hand Luke down the stretch. “I’m not 30 until October so no nerves there,” he said with a smile.
There were few challengers down the stretch apart from Fowler. Billy Haas made an early run with a 31 on the front to challenge Merritt but five bogeys and a double on the back produced a 39 that left him at 12-under par.
Tiger Woods created an early stir, going five-under through 10 holes but three back-nine bogeys derailed his run and he’d finish with 68 to post eight-under and tie for 18th.