Golf: Tearful Charles Howell snaps 11-year PGA title drought at RSM Classic, winning play-off after bad start

An emotional but joyful Charles Howell holding his trophy after winning the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Golf Club Seaside Course, in St. Simons Island, Georgia, on Nov 18, 2018.
An emotional but joyful Charles Howell holding his trophy after winning the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Golf Club Seaside Course, in St. Simons Island, Georgia, on Nov 18, 2018.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Charles Howell snapped an 11-year US PGA Tour win drought on Sunday (Nov 18) in epic fashion, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the second play-off hole to capture the RSM Classic.

The 39-year-old American had not won since Riviera in 2007 - a gap of 4,291 days - and had lost four of five prior play-offs before conquering compatriot Patrick Rodgers to win at Sea Island, Georgia.

"I just don't even know (how I did it). I haven't been able to pull it off in so long," he said before breaking down in tears.

"It means a lot because I hung in there. It means I can still win out here."

Squandering his lead with a bogey-double bogey start, Howell battled back all day for a three-under 67 to match Rodgers, whose 61-62 weekend nearly took him to his first PGA title.

"To hang in there and turn it around, I needed some good fortune on my side and fortunately I had it," Howell said. "I've failed a lot of times. It was different today."

He also secured a berth in his hometown event - next year's Masters at Augusta, Georgia - for the first time since 2012 by ending his drought after 333 events and 1,154 rounds.

It was third time charmed for Howell, who had three birdie putts on the 18th hole of the Seaside course to win the title, the first in the last round and the second on the first play-off hole before his sank the last.

"I had messed up the first two," he said. "I was thinking whatever I do, don't leave it short. I'm still shocked that putt went in."

It was the third career tour win for Howell, whose first came in 2002 at Williamsburg, Virginia.

Rodgers 'gutted'

Rodgers, 26, matched his career-best PGA finish with the runner-up effort after failing in his first PGA play-off.

"It has been such a long building process the past year and a half. All the hard work paid off with how well I played this week," he said. "I'm gutted to not get it done but congrats to Charles."

Rodgers and Howell entered the play-off after each finished 72 holes on 19-under 263 on the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island, Georgia.

Webb Simpson, this year's Players Championship winner, was third in an all-American top 10 on 264 - with Ryan Blaum and Luke List sharing fourth on 265, Cameron Champ sixth on 266 and Chase Wright, Peter Uihlein, Kevin Kisner and two-time Major winner Zach Johnson joint seventh on 267.

In a bogey-free final round, Rodgers blasted out of a bunker to birdie the par-four second, sank a four-foot birdie putt at the par-five seventh and drained a 45-foot birdie putt at the par-four ninth.

He followed with a birdie putt of 21 feet at No. 11 and a stunning 85-foot birdie effort at the par-three 12th, another pair of back-to-back birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 and closed with a seven-foot birdie putt to finish off his 62.

After his bad start, Howell battled back even as Rodgers charged. He made the shots back with birdies at the fifth and sixth, the latter from 21 feet, and another from 24 feet to begin the back nine. He birdied three in a row starting at the 15th to match Rodgers for the lead and a closing par set up the play-off.