GAINESVILLE (Virginia) • As Tiger Woods predicted he would get back to winning golf tournaments after closing with a three-under-par 68 at the Quicken Loans National, fellow American Troy Merritt exemplified what it means to bounce back.
After missing the cut in his previous five starts, Merritt shot a 67 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on Sunday to capture his first US PGA title.
The unheralded 29-year-old held off United States star Rickie Fowler and Swede David Lingmerth over the back nine, closing with a 35-foot birdie putt to become the 10th first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.
"When it happens, you're not thinking," the world No. 180, whose best previous finish was second at Memphis last year, said of his breakthrough win. "You really don't even know what your name is. I was just really happy."
Merritt fired a tournament- record 61 on Saturday and finished 72 holes on 266 for a three-stroke victory over Fowler. Lingmerth was third on 270.
Merritt tweaked his putting stance on Tuesday after weeks of frustration and it paid benefits, qualifying him for his first Major in two weeks at the PGA Championship. "You just don't give up," he said. "You keep grinding."
Lingmerth and Fowler shot matching 69s.
Tournament host Woods birdied five of the first 10 holes, including a 42-foot birdie putt at the par-three 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 joint-18th on 276.
It was his lowest 72 holes in relation to par at a PGA event since the 2013 BMW Championship.
"Felt like I made some big strides," the former world No. 1 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 he has not won a title since the 2013 World Golf Championships' Bridgestone Invitational and has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open.
"It's a process," he said. "Eventually I'll get there, where I'm in contention week in and week out and eventually I'll start winning golf tournaments again."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS