BETHESDA, Md. — At this former cattle ranch, appropriately enough, a stampede to the championship hardware broke out in the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
On a Sunday when seven players held at least a share of the lead and 10 players were within two shots of the lead late in the final round, it took a playoff between Charles Howell III and Kyle Stanley to settle things.
The two had played the final round together, feeding off each other en route to matching 4-under-par 66s to finish at 7 under for 72 holes. Then they walked to the 18th tee together and with a 4-foot putt for par on the first extra hole, Stanley won his second PGA Tour title, the other coming five years ago.
“It means a lot,” Stanley said as he held back tears. “I got so much help from my family, my coaches and my wife. It’s hard to put into words. The win is confirmation that we’re doing the right things, and I think it will make me hungrier the rest of the year. I’ll just continue to work hard.”
Howell hadn’t played in nine weeks due to a rib injury and was looking for his third Tour title but first since 2007, when he beat Phil Mickelson in a playoff to win at Riviera Country Club.
“Coming into this week I was extremely rusty so I didn’t know if I could play this well so soon,” Howell said. “I was surprised I did and pleased that I did.”
Rickie Fowler came with a rush with a 65 and finished in a tie for third with Martin Laird (67) at 5 under. Eight players tied for fifth at 4 under, including David Lingmerth, who led after each of the first three rounds.
Fowler, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 9, made a big run before running into trouble on the course’s easiest hole. Fowler made seven birdies in nine holes around the turn to get within a shot of the lead but then drove his ball into the water hazard on the drivable par-4 14th. He made double bogey but still mounted a late charge with birdies on 16 and 18.
“My goal was to go out and shoot 62, which if I birdie 14 and close the way I did, that was the number I had in mind, which I knew was possible out there with softer conditions,” Fowler said. “It was a solid, good finish after not being in great position after the first two days.”
Lingmerth didn’t finish well. He opened with 65-65 but then shot 73-73.
“This one's going to sting a little bit,” Lingmerth said. “I think it's going to sting for a few days. I wish I could have won here this week, but I'm hoping I can come back here at another time and try to do it again.”
Stanley was stung often during his struggles the past few years, when he finished 352nd in the world rankings at the end of 2014, 409th at the end of 2015, and 258th at the end of 2016. But he’s been in good form of late — three top-10s in his last seven starts prior to this week — and the win will likely get him inside the top 70 when the rankings come out Monday.
“My ball-striking's been pretty solid for the most part this entire year,” Stanley said. “My putting started to come around but everything's been kind of consistent. I knew that it was just a matter of time. It's hard to win out here, so tough to do it again. It was a lot of work, but you know, it's been worth it, for sure.”
Steve DiMeglio, USA Today