Emiliano Grillo survives wild 72nd hole for Charles Schwab Challenge title
Emiliano Grillo was nearly flawless on Sunday, but all it took was a one-inch deep stream to wash away his tournament hopes.
And then just one (or three) good bounces to get them back.
The 30-year-old started the day four back of the lead, made six birdies and took control of the tournament with a birdie on 16 that gave him a two-shot lead at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
But then his ball went in the water off the 18th tee … and it kept getting farther from the hole.
Grillo, searching for his second PGA Tour win, eight years after his first, blocked his tee shot right and found a shallow aqueduct that runs between Colonial Country Club’s 17th and 18th holes. The ball kept trickling and trickling back toward the tee.
“I knew, as soon as I saw the ball going right, I was like this is going to be a very long hole,” Grillo said afterward. “I’ve been through that pain of watching the ball just roll 120 yards back.”
After taking several minutes to wait for the ball to stop in the creek, PGA Tour rules officials told him he would have to drop back at his point of entry. That ended up being on a cart path and he eventually made a six, dropping him from a two-shot lead into a three-way tie at eight under after a 68.
After Harry Hall also drove it in the water on 18 — the only two such shots on the hole all week — Adam Schenk was the only other player to get to the clubhouse at eight under and tie Grillo.
But as the Argentine veteran waited for the playoff, he did something different. Instead of going to watch the finish in the clubhouse or keeping his mind focused by heading to the practice facility, he went to the first tee. He could practice there as the course is set to close after the tournament for a renovation.
And then he invited two young boys inside the ropes to hit balls with his golf clubs from the tee. Clearly, the distraction worked, or at least gave him better karma.
In the playoff, he pushed his tee shot, this time a 3-wood instead of driver, right again. Only this time, it kicked dead left and back into the fairway.
His approach? It also looked right but kicked left again off the firm turf, almost to the same distance as Schenk’s second would eventually settle.
After both made pars, they went to the par-3 16th, the same hole where Grillo seemed to make his decisive birdie an hour earlier.
This time, his approach looked right. See where this is going? (Should we also tell you his drive on 14 was blocked right and kicked back into the center of the fairway?)
It took another hard bounce back left and stopped just inside five feet away.
“Yeah, the shot wasn’t that great,” Grillo said. “Obviously it was a bit right of where I wanted. I took the entire slope and got close.”
Schenk was over the green and did well to give himself a good look at par.
“[The win] made everything worth it,” he said. “The playing, all the hours practicing, the effort from my family. It makes you think when you started playing all the emotions come through your head. It’s been tough, but it’s worth every second. People ask me if I would have done something different, obviously looking back, I wouldn’t. This is just worth it.”
Schenk meanwhile earned his second runner-up this season after also coming close at the Valspar Championship.
He and Hall started the day in the lead at 10-under, but Colonial played the meanest it had all week. The greens were pushed to the brink of firmness with the impending renovation meaning these would be the last rounds at the club until next year’s tournament. Colonial was more than half-stroke harder Sunday than any other round.
Grillo can probably thank those conditions for his bounces.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was also in the mix after he shot 67 in the final round to post 7 under well before the leaders reached the final holes. However, a balky putter again kept him from the winner’s circle.