Danny Willett suffered a golfer’s worst nightmare on Sunday night when he first missed a three-footer to win on the PGA Tour – then pulled the resulting bogey to miss the playoff.
Max Homa couldn’t believe his luck. Walking to the final green at the Fortinet Championship, the American was resigned to seeing his English player pick up the £1.27m cheque.
Homa was one behind and still off the green in three at the fifth, while Willett was close and good for birdie. Even as Homa, the defending champion, it looked like Willett would lift his first title on American soil since the 2016 Masters.
But then came Willett’s sensational three-putt, having grazed the hole with his first attempt, and Homa was suddenly celebrating his fourth victory in the past two years. In true Yorkshire style, Willett, 34, took defeat on the chin, despite realizing the collapse had cost him almost £500,000, the difference between first and second.
“We will live to fight another day,” he said. “It’s a shame how it ended, but I’m pretty sure those are the only short shots I’ve missed all week. It’s a shame to do it when I did. One of those things. Sometimes you wish you could turn back time. We learn from it and move on.”
This would be Willett’s first success in 12 months and would have taken him back to the brink of the world’s top 50 after an indifferent season.
But he must and will take positives from a week in Napa, California in which he got to 15-under and played some great shots, particularly the 14th in his final-round 69 where he bent it around a tree to within 15 feet.
His display bodes well for his defense of next week’s Dunhill Links Championship in Fife, where he will look to establish himself as a serious contender for next year’s Ryder Cup.
“Obviously I’ll remember that last stroke, but it was a good week overall and it was nice to be in contention basically since Friday,” he said. “Things are in a good place.”
For his part, Homa felt he had vindicated his spot on Team USA for this week’s President’s Cup in North Carolina. Davis Love selected the rookie as one of his six wildcards and was heavily mocked on social media.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me if the LIV guys didn’t leave, I wouldn’t have made the Presidents Cup team,” he said. “So I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder here.”