DUBLIN, Ohio — David Lingmerth stood over a short par putt on the third playoff hole at the Memorial and finally knew exactly what it meant.
An hour earlier, he looked like a winner when he signed for a 3-under 69 and watched on TV as Justin Rose hit a shank out of a bunker that plunked a spectator in the head and left him 55 yards short of the pin in a nasty lie. Rose needed to make par or Lingmerth would win.
“I saw where his second shot ended up and I thought, ‘You know what? That could be a hard up-and-down.’ But he hit a beautiful chip shot in there,” Lingmerth said.
On the first playoff hole, Rose chipped out of deep rough behind the green to 20 feet, leaving a difficult putt that swung hard to the left. Lingmerth had 10 feet for par and figured that would be for the win.
“And then he drops it in … and this big, huge roar,” Lingmerth said of Rose’s putt. “Crazy feeling.”
He calmed himself and made the biggest putt of his career just to stay alive.
Rose finally made one mistake too many — a drive on No. 10 into the right rough, a fairway metal into the gallery on the left, a chip down the slope some 18 feet by the hole and he still had just under 5 feet for bogey when Lingmerth settled over the winning putt.
Make it and he’s a PGA Tour winner for the first time.
“I can’t believe it,” Lingmerth said after it dropped for par and he gave a soft fist pump, more emotion than he had shown amid all the pressure of Sunday. “I’m so happy right now I don’t know where to go.”
The first stop was a handshake with tournament host Jack Nicklaus. He goes to the Masters next April for the first time. He has a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
And it only got better.
Sunday was his father’s birthday (and his parents’ anniversary), and Lingmerth’s wife used FaceTime so Thomas Lingmerth could watch the press conference of his son sitting next to a crystal trophy as Nicklaus raved about the performance.
And when it was over, Lingmerth handed the phone to Nicklaus, who spoke to the Swede’s father and wished him a happy birthday.
It was the biggest smile Lingmerth showed all day.
His first PGA Tour victory didn’t come easily.
Rose began the final round with a three-shot lead and was going for his eighth victory over the last five years. That was gone in four holes, and Rose had to scramble just to get back into the hunt, and made that par save from deep rough for a 72 to force a playoff.
Masters champion Jordan Spieth chipped in twice — for birdie and for eagle — in his closing round of 65 to reach 13-under 275, and he hung around for two hours to see if it would be good enough for a playoff. It took a long time to get his answer.
Francesco Molinari of Italy reached 15 under with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, where Rose made bogey from a bunker. Lingmerth joined him in the group ahead with a birdie on the 15th. Rose made birdie on the 15th for a three-way tie.
Lingmerth finished with three pars and was the first to post at 273. Molinari dropped out with an 8-iron that failed to clear the water on the par-3 16th, leading to double bogey. Rose had such a wild Sunday that he had six pars, six bogeys and six birdies on his card.
The winning putt for Lingmerth came on No. 10. The most important putt was on No. 18, the 10-footer he made to match the 20-foot par that Rose knocked in.
“He needs to look back at that putt that kept it going on the first extra hole,” Rose said. “He did everything he needed to.”
Spieth wound up in a tie for third, a good finish that gives him momentum going to the U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods showed improvement — it was hard not to after a career-worst 85 on Saturday. He shot 74 and finished last, 29 shots behind, with his worst 72-hole score (302) in his PGA Tour career.
“I did not win, and I wasn’t even close,” Woods said. “So hopefully in two weeks’ time, things will be a lot better and I’ll be ready to try to win a U.S. Open.”
The next step for Lingmerth was to try to qualify for the U.S. Open.
As if 21 holes were not enough, Lingmerth faced a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Open on Monday. He moved to No. 71 in the world, and only the top 60 are eligible after next week. The forecast was for rain. The possibility was for the qualifier to be stretched into Tuesday, if it even starts.
Lingmerth could use a day off to let sink in all that happened at Muirfield Village.
“Boy, did he play well coming down the stretch?” Nicklaus said.
Lingmerth smiled at words that, considering the source, were almost as valuable as the trophy.
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