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Byrd works overtime to win PGA's opener

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Jonathan Byrd had a silver trophy at his side and a lei around his neck, a winner Sunday in the Tournament of Champions, even if the playoff didn't end the way anyone imagined.

"Pretty overwhelmed," he said.

The emotions went beyond his win in the PGA Tour's season opener when Robert Garrigus, the biggest hitter on tour, missed a 3-foot par putt on the second extra hole at Kapalua.

About three months ago, Byrd thought he might lose his card for the first time. He was outside the top 125 on the money list, and not much was going his way.

Then came a hole-in-one in near darkness to win Las Vegas in a playoff, getting him to the Tournament of Champions. He made it two straight victories by closing with 6-under 67 and winning despite the length advantage for Garrigus in the playoff.

"I can't sit here and not think about where I was toward the end of the season last year, fighting for my card," he said. "I'm just thankful, I'm overwhelmed, I'm grateful, all of the above."

Garrigus had a 12-foot eagle putt on the last hole in regulation that would have been enough to win. He failed to take advantage of his length on the par-5 18th in the playoff, hitting a poor chip that fooled him. And with a 9-iron to the green on No. 1 in the playoff — Byrd his 3-iron — he couldn't get it closer than 40 feet.

Garrigus ran it 3 feet by the hole and tried to jam it in from there and caught the right lip.

"If you had told me this — I'd have been in a playoff with one of the best players in the world — I'd have said, 'Hey, bring it on, and we'll get 'em next week,' " said Garrigus (67).

The two finished regulation at 24-under 268.

Byrd won for the fifth time in his career, and this was the biggest. He earned an automatic invitation to the Masters and is exempt for the U.S. Open.

European: British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen won a three-way playoff on the first hole to secure the Africa Open title in East London, South Africa. The South African, who finished at 16-under 276, sank a 12-foot birdie on No. 18 to top Chris Wood and Manuel Quiros.

Byrd works overtime to win PGA's opener 01/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 10, 2011 12:15am]
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