South Welshman Brett Drewitt wasn’t expecting to be in a playoff as he watched playing partner Xin Jun Zhang arrive at the 18th green.
With Zhang holding a one-shot lead on the 18th hole, Drewitt expected Zhang to two-putt and win the tournament.
When Zhang’s par putt from five feet missed, it opened the door for Drewitt, and he took advantage, capturing the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open with a birdie putt on the second hole.
The victory is Drewitt’s first since he turned pro last year after time in both Golf Australia's National Squad and the Golf NSW State Squad.
Zhang’s missed putt on 18—his only bogey of the day—forced the first playoff in PGA TOUR China Series history, an extra session that also included China’s Hao Tong Li, all finishing at 8-under 280.
Despite the lifeline it provided Drewitt, as Zhang missed his par putt, the Australian even winced a little.
“It was not a good thing to see, seeing another player three-putting to get into a playoff,” Drewitt said. “I had to regroup. There was a tournament to win, and I had to go out and try to do it.”
After all three players parred the first extra hole—again the par-4 18th—the players returned to the 18th tee for the second hole of sudden death. The first playoff hole was again torture for Zhang, who missed an eight-foot birdie attempt on a similar line to his previous miss that would have sealed the victory.
On playoff hole No. 2, both Zhang and Li hit their drives in the bunker, with Drewitt’s landing in the middle of the fairway. Li’s approach shot missed the green, while Zhang hit a remarkable approach from the sand, the ball stopping not far from where he had stood the last two times he visited the green. With Drewitt eight feet away, he watched Zhang again miss an 18th-hole putt, this time from 10 feet. Drewitt then then calmly knocked in his putt for the win.
“I’d seen the putt a few times before, so I had a good idea of what it was going to do,” the 23-year-old Drewitt said of his winning putt. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I had a good read on it. I knew I didn’t have to hit it too hard because it was downhill, down grain.
“When I saw that it was a foot out,” he continued, “that’s when I realized it was going to go in. There was no way it was going to miss. To see that and have the realization I had won and have all the emotions flood out, it was unreal. It was the best feeling I think I could ever have.”
For Zhang, he had essentially three putts on the 18th hole of different lengths from the same position during a one-hour period. Had any of them fallen, he would have won. None of them did, though, as he attempted to become the first native of China to win on the PGA TOUR China Series.
“I played so well on the back nine, so I feel very disappointed,” Zhang said. “I had birdie chances in the playoff, so I’m disappointed I missed them. I felt nervous before the playoff, when I missed what would have been the winning putt on my last hole. But I felt relaxed in the playoff. My putting line was just not enough.”
Missing the playoff by two strokes was a quartet of players, who tied for fourth—Scott Barr, Ze Yu He, Anthony Kang and David Lutterus.
Despite the tough loss, Zhang still took some good away from his four-day performance here.
“Obviously I want to win a tournament on the PGA TOUR China Series, but two seconds means I have enough ability to win,” Zhang said, noting his runner-up finish in the Series’ inaugural event, the Mission Hills Haikou Open.
Without much time to consider the ramifications of his win, Drewitt talked about how playing the PGA TOUR China Series is moving him toward his professional goals.
“It’s a great stepping stone to where I want to be. I want to get to the U.S. This Tour is 12 tournaments that I can play this year that will get me to where I want to be if I play well enough,” he added.
Drewitt has been committed to the PGA TOUR China Series since qualifying for the circuit in March. He intends to play all 12 events. Prior to his win Sunday, Drewitt’s tie for 13th at the Buick Open was his best showing.