With two former U.S. Open winners battling in a playoff, Webb Simpson missed a five-foot par putt on the first extra hole to hand Graeme McDowell the title at the 2013 RBC Heritage at the Harbour Town Golf Links.
It is no surprise that this came down to two of the past three winners of the U.S. Open. With high winds swirling, this claustrophobic Hilton Head Island, S.C., course was playing like a scene from a terrifying golf dream, or a U.S. Open.
This course is lined with water hazards, tight fairways and tiny greens. So when the winds are frequently gusting like they were when Simpson was on the par-four sixth hole, it wasn't as much about scoring as it was about surviving.
Considering the day began with Charley Hoffman at 11-under sitting solo in the lead but with 11 others at six-under or better, you can get a feel for how difficult the conditions were with a look at the final leaderboard.
Final-Round Leaderboard—2013 RBC Heritage
|2||Webb Simpson ||-9|
|T6 ||Russell Henry||-5|
*View the full leaderboard at PGA.com.
After a scintillating three days of putting, Hoffman was in excellent position to capture his third Tour victory. The third-round leader had gone on to win 31 of the past 44 times at this tournament.
However, Hoffman had been struggling with his accuracy all tournament, and it really bit him in the wind. He hung in there with a a one-over 37 on the front, but a double bogey on the par-three 14th dropped him to seven-over par, and he was facing an uphill battle.
Hoffman and everyone else knew that they were going to need to be at least seven-under, as former world No. 1 Luke Donald hit the sheltered clubhouse at seven-under.
Donald, who has been struggling so far this year, began the day at five-under. He fired a four-under on the front to work his way up the leaderboard.
However, he was not immune to the wind and this 180-yard approach shot on No. 11 set up his last birdie of the day.
Donald finished at two-under for the day, after picking up three bogeys to go with his lone birdie on the back nine.
Hoffman only lost ground on the magical seven-under mark as he fired consecutive bogeys to end his round and wind up at five-under for the tournament.
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell was cruising along with steady tee-to-green play, and with putts like this birdie effort on No. 11, McDowell was one of the few players to fire an under-par round:
McDowell stepped up to the 18th tee with three birdies and no bogeys on the day to hold a one-stroke lead at 10-under.
This meant that if McDowell could hit just one more par, he would be in strong position to capture the title. He couldn't.
McDowell need a relatively easy up and down from just beyond the green for a par, but his chip blew past the hole, and McDowell suffered his first bogey of the day.
This opened the door for Simpson, who had steadied after looking like he was going to fall out of contention, as he played holes five through 10 at three over. After birdieing No. 12 a brilliant approach shot, Simpson parred out to force the playoff.
Both players were looking for their first PGA Tour victory since winning their respective U.S. Open.
The pair hit the 18th for the second time to begin the playoff. McDowell landed safely on the green with his approach, while Simpson was just wide.
Simpson chose to putt onto the green, and he struck a beautiful effort, but a wind gust pushed his ball about 10 feet past the hole. He watched McDowell hit an easy two putt and could not convert.
This was an excellent tournament for these guys as they both rebounded from missing the cut at last week's Masters.
While McDowell missed the cut last week, he has been excellent this season. This was his fifth top-10 finish in his seventh Tour event of the year.