Cam Davis, on the par-4 16th at Detroit Golf Club, had a 39-footer to pull within a tie for the lead during Sunday’s final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He hit it 4 feet short. He hit his second putt just past the right edge of the cup. Three-putt, and now two down with three holes to go. He even struggled, for a second, to pluck his ball from the hole. The gallery was quiet, except for a lone:
On his next hole, the par-5 17th, Davis dunked a wedge from the left greenside bunker for an eagle three to move into a five-way tie at the top. On the next hole, the par-4 18th, Davis dropped a 6-footer for a birdie three to move into now a three-way tie, where it stayed after everyone came back to the clubhouse. Then after five playoff holes, one with Joaquin Niemann and all five with Troy Merritt, Davis finished as a first-time PGA Tour winner.
Man, oh man, oh man.
Davis, who played his final two holes at three under, shot a final-round five-under 67, then parred the par-3 15th, the fifth hole of a playoff, to prevail. It’s the 26-year-old Australian’s first victory on Tour, following a win at the 2017 Australian Open and a win on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“It’s been pretty hectic ever since the 17th hole for me,” Davis said. “I don’t know, I just tried to put as much out of my mind as I could and just hit every shot for what it was worth. As simple as that’s said, it’s so hard to do when the pressure’s on like that. I just kept on putting good swings on it. I guess I didn’t make any putts, but I kept on putting it in play, so it worked out all right.”
Davis was right on all three statements there — in the playoff, he didn’t make any putts, he kept it in play, and it worked out all right.
On the first extra hole, back at the 18th, he missed a 6-footer for birdie that would have won it. Merritt, meanwhile, two-putted for par, and Niemann bogeyed his first hole of the entire week and was done; he was seeking to be the third player ever to win a tournament while going bogey free.
On the second playoff hole, the par-3 15th, Davis hit his tee shot to 20 feet, but missed another birdie putt that would have won it. Merritt, meanwhile, had hit his tee shot into the left greenside bunker and got up and down for par. On the third playoff hole, back at the par-4 16th, Davis missed a 25-footer for birdie that would have ended it, and Merritt made a 5-footer for par. On the fourth playoff hole, back at the par-5 14th, after both players hit the green in two, both players two-putted, Davis missing a 19-footer that would have won it.
On the fifth playoff hole, on the par-3 15th, Davis missed his fifth straight putt that would have given him the victory, but this time Merritt could not match after missing the green with his tee shot. The five-hole playoff follows last week’s eight-holer at the Travelers Championship, won by Harris English.
“Cam did what he had to do, he put it on the green every hole, had a chance to win five times, hit great putts and he just played fantastic,” Merritt said. “So my hat’s off to him.”
About five hours earlier, when Niemann and Merritt teed off in the final pairing, a whopping 26 players were three shots back of the two leaders, or better. At various points, eight players held at least a share of the lead — Davis, Merritt, Niemann, Bubba Watson, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren and Hank Leboida — before Davis, Merritt and Niemann finished at 18 under. Noren and Leboida would end up at 17 under, while Watson and Brandon Hagy finished at 16 under.
“Cam played fantastic in the playoff; he had putt after putt to win,” Merritt said. “He did what he had to do and great champion.”
The big takeaway
Go ahead and add Cam Davis among the young players to watch on Tour. His length makes many courses a whole lot smaller.
How the lead changed hands
- Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann share a one-shot lead over Hank Leboida and Cam Davis, a two-shot lead over Brandon Hagy, and a three-shot lead over six players to begin the final round. Merritt and Niemann are at 14 under.
- When Merritt and Niemann tee off at 2:05 p.m. ET, 26 players are three shots back or better of the lead. One shot back are Leboida, Davis, Hagy, Bubba Watson and Sungjae Im. Two shots back are Jason Day, Joel Dahmen, Kevin Kisner, Maverick McNealy, Cameron Tringale, Chris Kirk and Fabian Gomez.
- Merritt birdies the 395-yard, par-4 1st on a 6-foot putt. It’s his fourth straight birdie on the 1st. He’s at 15 under and leads by one over Niemann.
- Merritt bogeys the 457-yard, par-4 2nd on a three-putt to fall out of the lead. He and Niemann are at 14 under.
- Watson birdies the 382-yard, par-4 13th to pull into a tie with Merritt and Niemann at 14 under. Watson is six under for his round.
- Niemann birdies the 383-yard, par-4 3rd, on an 8-foot putt, to take a one-shot lead. He’s at 15 under, one stroke ahead of Merritt and Watson.
- Watson birdies the 142-yard, par-3 15th to move into a tie with Niemann at 15 under. Merritt, Davis, Kisner, Kirk, Alex Noren and Jason Kokrak are a shot back.
- Kokrak birdies the 560-yard par-5 7th to move into a tie with Niemann and Watson at 15 under. It’s his fifth birdie in a row.
- Kisner birdies the 356-yard, par-4 8th to pull into a tie with Niemann, Watson and Kokrak at 15 under.
- Noren birdies the 13th to pull into a five-way tie for the lead with Niemann, Watson, Kokrak and Kisner at 15 under. Twenty-two players are within three shots of lead at 3:30 p.m. ET.
- Noren birdies the 546-yard, par-5 14th, on an 8-foot putt, to take a one-shot lead over Niemann, Watson, Kokrak and Kisner. Noren is at 16 under.
- Watson birdies the 467-yard, par-4 18th to take the clubhouse lead. After an eight-under 64, he and Noren are at 16 under, one shot ahead of Niemann and Kokrak.
- Noren birdies the 445-yard, par-4 16th to take the lead alone. He’s at 17 under, one shot ahead of Watson, and two strokes ahead of Niemann, Kokrak and Leboida.
- Noren misses an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and finishes with an eight-under 64, tying his career low on the PGA Tour. He has the clubhouse lead at 17 under.
- Leboida birdies the 13th, on a 6-foot putt, to move into a share of the lead with Noren. They are at 17 under, one shot ahead of Niemann and Watson, and two strokes ahead of Im, Davis, Seamus Power and Mark Anderson.
- Merritt and Niemann birdie the 16th to move into a four-way share of the lead with Leboida and Noren. Merritt had hit his approach to within 4 feet, and Niemann 2. They are at 17 under, one shot ahead of Watson and Hagy.
- Cam Davis, after a bogey on 16, holes out for eagle from the left greenside bunker on the 571-yard, par-5 17th to move into a five-way share of the lead. Davis, Merritt, Niemann, Leboida and Noren are at 17 under. Leboida, also on the 17th, three-putts for par.
- Niemann and Merritt birdie the par-5 17th to take a one-shot lead heading to the 18th. Niemann had hit to within 13 feet with his second shot, and he two-putted, while Merritt rolled in a 7-footer. They are at 18 under, one stroke ahead of Davis, Leboida and Noren.
- Davis rolls in a 6-footer for birdie on the 18th to pull into a three-way tie at the top with Niemann and Merritt. He plays his final two holes at three under. They are at 18 under, one stroke ahead of Leboida and Noren.
- Niemann and Merritt par the 18th to go to a playoff with Davis. They will play the 18th hole first.
- On the first playoff hole, Davis misses a 6-footer for birdie that would have won the tournament, and he and Merritt move to a second playoff hole. Earlier, Merritt two-putted for par, and Niemann bogeyed his first hole of the week, after hitting over the green on his approach shot from the fairway.
- On the second playoff hole, the par-3 15th, Davis hit his tee shot to 20 feet, but misses the birdie putt that would have won the tournament. Merritt had hit his tee shot into the left greenside bunker and got up and down for par.
- On the third playoff hole, the par-4 16th, Davis misses a 25-footer for birdie that would have won the tournament, and Merritt makes a 5-footer for par to move onto a fourth playoff hole. Merritt had hit his tee shot right, punched out, pitched on and one-putted.
- On the fourth playoff hole, the par-5 14th, after both players hit the green in two, both players two-putted, and the playoff moves to a fifth playoff hole. Davis missed a 19-footer after Merritt missed a 21-footer.
- On the fifth playoff hole, back at the par-3 15th, Davis just misses a 12-footer for birdie, but Merritt can’t get up and down after missing the green on his tee shot, and Davis wins his first PGA Tour tournament.
The final word
“I guess you just have to fall back on the fact that you hit really good shots to get there. I kept on making really good quality swings and every single time I wasn’t thinking about where don’t I want to miss it. It was always just keep your eyes locked on where you want to go and feel the swing was going to put the ball there and just go in there and trust it. There’s definitely room for nerves to set in if you do start kind of letting your mind wander, but I felt like I was really deliberate and did a good job of that and I think that kept me going all the way through each hole of the playoff and at the end of regulation as well.” — Davis, on his ability to bounce back in the playoff