LOS ANGELES (AP) — James Hahn had reason to feel like a nobody at Riviera.
He was among seven players who had at least a share of the lead on the back nine at some point during the final round of the Northern Trust Open. All of them were PGA Tour winners. Two have won majors. One is in the Hall of Fame. Three have played multiple times in the Ryder Cup.
The former shoe salesman played the final round with Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk, and as they walked up the stairs to sign their cards, Hahn heard a little kid say, “Good job, Jim. Good job, Dustin.” And then he blanked when he saw Hahn.
“Even when I was signing hats after the round, I asked some guy, ‘Hey, is there a playoff? Like, what’s going on?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey and some other guy.’ I was like, ‘Yeah? OK, cool. Here’s your hat.'”
The other guy won.
With a back story fit for Hollywood, in a three-man playoff off Sunset Boulevard just as the Academy Awards show was getting started, Hahn turned in the performance of his life for his first PGA Tour title and a spot in the Masters.
Hahn had to save par by chipping with a hybrid from the back of the 18th green for a 2-under 69, and then had to watch Johnson’s 10-foot birdie putt for the victory snap off in front of the cup. Johnson shot a 69.
Casey finished earlier, a bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey finish for a 68. They were at 6-under 278.
All three made par on the 18th in the playoff, and then headed to the 10th hole, 310 yards of trouble and terror. Casey was in the best spot, left of the green with a clear angle at the pin on the far right, and pitched to 15 feet.
“I didn’t think I would have the longest birdie putt after seeing where those guys were,” Casey said. “But those guys played phenomenal recoveries, absolutely brilliant.”
Brilliant, indeed. From behind the green in wet rough, Hahn threw up a flop shot over the back bunker to 10 feet. Johnson had an even tougher angle. He took on the flag and watched it check up to just over 3 feet from the hole.
“Man, did I hit a good one,” Johnson said.
Casey missed his putt and was eliminated. On to the par-3 14th, where Johnson stuffed his tee shot into 12 feet and Hahn followed to 25 feet. He had the same putt in regulation and knew that while everything pointed to the putt breaking left, it really slid slightly to the right. That’s how he played it. That’s how he made it.
Hahn couldn’t watch the rest.
He stared at his feet, happy he was assured of at least playing one more hole, hopeful he wouldn’t have to play another. When he didn’t hear a cheer, he looked up to see Johnson’s ball below the cup.
Until Sunday, the 33-year-old Hahn was best known for his “Gangnam Style” dance before the crazies on the 16th hole at Phoenix after making a putt. He’s that kind of character, as entertaining off the course as he is inside the ropes.
This time, he was too stunned to dance.
“I never would have thought I would win this tournament,” Hahn said.
Everyone had a chance.
Johnson lost his way on the par-5 17th when he was tied for the lead, had a lob wedge in his hand and hit his third shot into a bunker, making bogey. That put him one shot behind Sergio Garcia, who finished even worse. The Spaniard three-putted from 50 feet on the fringe for bogey at the 17th, then chipped weakly in front of the 18th green for another bogey and a 71 to finish one shot out of a playoff.
“I’ve always been truthful to myself and I didn’t deserve to win this week. It’s as simple as that,” Garcia said.
Jordan Spieth, who four-putted for double bogey from just off the fourth green, figured he needed to reach 7 under to have a chance and played to win. His chip nearly went in, but then he missed the 6-foot par putt and shot 70. Bae Sang-Moon made back-to-back bogeys early on the back nine and couldn’t catch up.
Retief Goosen, the 54-hole leader who has gone nearly six years without a win, didn’t make a par over the last six holes — a double bogey, three bogeys, two birdies. He shot 75 and finished two out of the playoff. Vijay Singh, who turned 52 on Sunday, played the last four holes in 4-over par and missed the playoff by three shots.
Hahn was the last man standing.
His first victory. His first trip to the Masters. A two-year exemption on a tour that took him 10 years to reach. And a baby girl on the way in three weeks.
“I couldn’t be more excited, and more nervous that we don’t have a name picked out yet,” Hahn said. “I’m going to have to talk to my wife about ‘Riviera.’ I think that’s a good name.”
One that everyone knows.
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