Brian Gay turns back the clock to seal thrilling Bermuda Championship victory
Brian Gay held his nerve to win his first PGA Tour event in seven years in a thrilling finale to the Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course yesterday.
The 48-year-old rallied from a three-shot deficit on the back nine, to card a final final-round 64, capped off with a birdie at the 18th, his ninth of the round, to heap the pressure back on Wyndham Clark, who still had victory in his own hands as he teed off from the final hole in the final group behind Gay.
However, Clark, chasing his maiden PGA Tour victory, could not capitalise on his golden moment, sending his putt for victory past the hole, before sinking a three-footer for par to force a play-off.
Both players found the green once again on the first play-off hole, the 18th, with Clark holding the advantage with a monstrous drive. However, after both chipped on to the green it was Gay who seized the moment, putting from outside ten feet while Clark missed from inside seven feet to hand his rival the title.
While Clark was left to rue what could have been, Gay was able to cherish his fifth PGA Tour title and first since since his American Express triumph in 2013.
The oldest PGA Tour winner since Davis Love III at the 2015 Wyndham Championship, Gay gains entry into next year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, The Players Championship and the Masters, in addition to earning 500 FedExCup points.
“It’s obviously great to be back in the winner’s circle after a seven-year wait,” said Gay, who finished tied for third in the inaugural Bermuda Championship last year.
“I did wonder if I’d ever win another PGA Tour event again. People kept telling me I would and I’ve just been keeping at it. It’s hard to believe but it’s an amazing feeling.
“Despite my greater experience I was still nervous. However, I’ve been in high-pressure positions before and when it came I was just hyper focused.
“The nerves were there but I’ve done it before and my caddy said to me right ’let’s get another birdie and get out of here’. I was delighted to be able to do that.
“This is probably my most surprising victory considering my recent form. They are all special and I treasure every single one of them.”
Despite his strong finish last year, Gay conceded he had no heightened expectations coming into this year’s tournament, while also heralding the return of fans to the course for the first time in a PGA Tour event since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the sporting calendar.
“I had good feelings coming back here after finishing third last year but you never know what might happen,” he added. “I didn’t want to have big expectations but I knew I was in a good place. Iit all just came together this week.
“I don’t know the reasons for my poor recent form. I’ve struggled the last few months and been quite miserable on the golf course at times.
“Because of Covid, it was a big break off and I had a low energy with my game. It also didn’t help not having fans and I think I struggled with the quietness.
“To have fans back was fantastic and perhaps that sparked my turnaround.”
Doc Redman entered yesterday’s final round at Port Royal Golf Course with a one-shot lead at ten under, but it was Clark and Gay who emerged as the main title contenders in a straight battle of nerves and consistency.
Clark, who came into the final round a shot behind Redman, got off to a flying start with birdies at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th to make the turn at five under for the round and take the lead. He added two more birdies at the 10th and 11th before his fortunes changed with four consecutive pars before his first dropped shot with a decisive bogey on the 16th.
Just as Clark’s form was dipping, Gay, who started the day two shots off the lead, was making a late charge making seven birdies within the 6th to the 15th holes to move within one shot of the lead.
Clark’s bogey on the 16th handed Gay a temporary lead, only for the latter to do the same on the 17th to drop back to 14 under.
After Clark made par on 17, Gay responded with a brilliant birdie on the final hole to tie the lead at 15 under, with his rival watching it all from the tee box.
However, with victory still in his grasp, the 26-year-old narrowly missed his putt for birdie and victory, before going on to miss out what would have been a landmark victory for Clark.
“I'm pretty bummed,” Clark said. “I knew I had a one-shot lead. I thought I made that putt on 17 and same on 18. I had chances, I just didn’t capitalise.
“Obviously I would have liked to have won. I played so good, just had a little mishap on 16 and 17 and then really didn’t make those two putts on 18. I played great. It was a great tournament. Obviously, I’m disappointed.”
Ollie Schniederjans finished third at 13 under, while Denny McCarthy, who made six consecutive birdies from the 2nd to 7th holes finished up with a bogey-free, eight-under 63 to tie for fourth on 12 under alongside Stewart Cink, Matt Jones and Redman.