05/02/2016

Every Monday a good portion of humanity feels like this past weekend’s New Orleans weather. Most of us don’t get to erase those blues on the golf course. In other words, if you get the rare chance to play some Monday golf, you better take advantage.

That was the case for the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. After heavy rains wiped out play on Sunday, the annual trip to the Big Easy was extended an extra day. The players who teed off packed in plenty of drama to entertain the few that had time to watch. In the end, seven golfers finished within two strokes of the lead. Three of those men, Brian Stuard, Jamie Lovemark and Beyong-Hun An, went to a playoff at 15-under.

Stuard ultimately bested Lovemark on the second hole to claim his first PGA Tour victory.

Stuard wasn’t alone in his pursuit. Both An and Lovemark have yet to win in the game’s top flight, despite decorated careers otherwise. If you recall, Lovemark was a stalwart on the famous 2007 United States Walker Cup team that included Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk. In some regards, Lovemark, then 19, was considered the best prospect among the group.

An, on the other hand, has won overseas but never stateside.

The South Korean was the first to bow out after he bogeyed the first playoff hole, a replay of 18. Lovemark and Stuard collected pars to head back to the tee box. The par-5 18th had plagued the former all day and would do so again. With a chance to win on the first playoff hole, Lovemark three-putted after reaching the green in two. Stewing from that miss, he could only muster another par.

Meanwhile, Stuard delivered the goods. He stuffed his approach shot and sank a birdie to collect the all-important win no. 1. He is the 11th first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.

The tournament may have been reduced to three rounds and the field was one of the weaker ones in 2016. That shouldn’t take away from Stuard’s accomplishment. After all, he had to hold off a slew of rivals in addition to An and Lovemark including some of the hottest players on tour. Jason Day, you may have heard of him, made a charge in the final round by firing six-under. He ultimately finished two shots back at -13. Last week’s winner Charley Hoffman also closed well. He matched Day’s 66 with eight birdies and two bogeys. Hoffman finished T11 with a score of -10.

For Stuard, this victory marks the peak of a journeyman. He’s played in just three career majors and has yet to make the cut in any of them. Now, he’ll look to make his mark beyond a rained-shortened title.

Stuard was almost washed away in New Orleans. It’s better than being washed up.

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