Golf: Unknown Merritt takes first PGA win at National; Woods has best score in two years

Troy Merritt holds the Quicken Loans National trophy on the 18th hole after winning in the final round of the Quicken Loans National golf tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.
Troy Merritt holds the Quicken Loans National trophy on the 18th hole after winning in the final round of the Quicken Loans National golf tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. PHOTO: REUTERS

GAINESVILLE, United States (AFP) - American Troy Merritt fired a four-under par 67, closing with a 35-foot birdie putt, to win the Quicken Loans National on Sunday and capture his first PGA title.

The unheralded 29-year-old held off US star Rickie Fowler and Swede David Lingmerth over the back nine to become the 10th first-time winner on the US PGA Tour this season but the first in the history of the National.

Merritt, who fired a tournament-record 61 on Saturday, finished 72 holes at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on 18-under 266 for a three-stroke victory over Fowler with Lingmerth third on 270.

"I really made some golf shots coming in," said Merritt, who had made 95 previous PGA starts without a win. "Battled all the way to the end. Hat's off to Rickie. It's great to battle a great player all the way to the end."

England's Justin Rose, the 2013 winner, shared fourth on 272 with New Zealand's Danny Lee, Sweden's Carl Pettersson and Americans Bill Haas, Justin Thomas, and Jason Bohn. Japan's Ryo Ishikawa was another stroke back in 10th.

Merritt, ranked 180th, had missed the cut in his past five starts. His best prior PGA showing was a runner-up effort last year at Memphis, but he had tied a course record with a 61 at the Heritage in April.

Lingmerth, who won his first PGA title in June at the Memorial, and Fowler, who won the Players Championship in May and the Scottish Open last month, each made two back-nine bogeys while Merritt had only one and matched Fowler birdies at 16 and 18 for the victory.

Tournament host Tiger Woods birdied five of the first 10 holes, including a 42-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth, but then made bogeys on three of the next four.

He answered with an eight-foot birdie putt at 17 but settled for a 68 to finish on eight-under 276, his lowest 72 holes in relation to par at a PGA event since the 2013 BMW Championship.

"Felt like I made some big strides," Woods said of the week. "It was a mixed bag as far as results but the fact I had total control of the golf ball was nice."

Woods, a 14-time major champion, has slumped to 266th in world rankings due to injuries and swing changes.

He has 79 career PGA Tour titles, three shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, but has not won a title since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational and has not won a major since the 2008 US Open.