Bronson La'Cassie avoided the hike up to the 18th tee for another scary tee shot by ending the second-longest playoff in Cox Classic history.
Four times in an hour on a steamy but windy Sunday, the Aussie and Matt Bettencourt played the signature par-4 stadium hole at Champions Run, the last three in the playoff.
La'Cassie, who forced extra holes on a 10-foot birdie putt, two-putted from 35 feet on the third extra hole for the winning par and his graduation to next season's PGA Tour as one of the top 25 money winners in the regular season.
“It's a tough hole,” La'Cassie said. “I wasn't sure either of us was going to make a birdie or a bogey. I'm glad to be done with it.”
Bettencourt, who had led by two strokes before La'Cassie birdied the final two holes of regulation, three-putted from 80 feet for bogey after a poor tee shot.
He, too, was part of the first half of the Web.com Tour's 50-man graduating class. A ceremony for the 17 top 25 money winners who were still in town followed the tournament's trophy presentation.
It was the Cox Classic's fifth playoff and first since Ryan Hietala defeated David Branshaw in 2008. The longest playoff was four holes in 1998, when Matt Gogel outlasted Jay Williamson.
La'Cassie, 30, is from Brisbane, Australia. He was a four-time All-American at Minnesota from 2004 to 2007 after being recruited by a coach from his home city.
By winning the $144,000 first prize from the Cox Classic record purse of $800,000, La'Cassie jumped from 33rd to sixth on the regular-season money list with $255,629.
“I'm pretty excited with the win and the added perk of going onto the PGA Tour,” he said. “I didn't think about winning. I figured somebody else would win, so I just went out and played.”
After leading for most of the front nine, La'Cassie bogeyed the par-4 ninth hole by driving into the closest bunker to the green and three-putting.
Bettencourt made eagle there, sinking an 8-footer, for a three-stroke swing and a two-stroke lead to take to the back nine.
La'Cassie eagled the 10th hole, while Bettencourt birdied it. A bogey by La'Cassie on the par-3 12th, however, dropped him two off the lead.
Bettencourt bogeyed the par-4 15th, with La'Cassie doing the same on the par-3 16th.
Then came the birdie-birdie finish. On the par-5 17th, after not getting his 6-iron second shot to come down off a ridge, La'Cassie two-putted from 15 feet.
“The first one was scary quick,” he said. “I literally just touched it and it ran 3 feet past.”
La'Cassie tied for fewest putts during the tournament, and his final stroke in regulation was the 10-footer on 18 after a 6-iron to the green.
John Peterson, the former LSU golfer who was fourth at last year's U.S. Open, played in the same threesome as La'Cassie and Bettencourt but couldn't get into the playoff.
Like La'Cassie a stroke back coming to 18, Peterson missed a lengthy putt from the back fringe and wound up taking third — when he needed a tie for second or better to finish among the top 25.
On the first extra hole, both players got up and down for par from a gnarly swale left of the green. La'Cassie's tee shot hit the signature cottonwood and dropped in the rough, leaving a shot of 215 yards.
On the second extra hole, they took pars. Bettencourt putted from the fringe and La'Cassie missed a 15-footer on the low side.
Bettencourt then sent his drive on the third extra hole into the right rough.
“I hit a 5-iron as far as I could, because I didn't think I could hit a 4 (because of the rough depth),” he said. “Bronson really made a couple good birdies and hat's off to him. He played wonderful golf.”
La'Cassie said his thoughts standing over the 35-footer, in all likelihood needing only to two putt, weren't about lagging it.
“I didn't get ahead of myself. I was trying to hole it,” the new champion said. “It bounced about halfway, hit a pitch mark, and it kind of straightened out there at the end.
“But I'll take it.”