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Pepperell, Vegas feed frenzy at famed 17 with long putts

March 18, 2019
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Eddie Pepperell, of England, hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Eddie Pepperell’s 50-foot birdie putt sent the packed gallery surrounding the island green into a frenzy.

Jhonattan Vegas one-upped him a few minutes later.

Vegas drained a 70-footer that broke the tournament record for the longest recorded putt at the 17th green Sunday. Bernhard Langer held the previous mark, a 59-footer in the second round in 2008. The PGA Tour started keeping track of putt lengths in 2003.

The putts provided two memorable moments — in consecutive groups, no less — and added to a frantic finish at The Players Championship.

“Absolutely mind-blowing, simple as that,” Vegas said. “It never crossed my mind that I was going to make such a long putt on such a phenomenal hole. But it’s one of those things. That’s kind of what you play golf for, to be in those kinds of situations.

“Playing the 17th hole with that crowd, it just doesn’t get any better. Obviously the type of memories that last a lifetime and something that I’ll remember for forever.”

Pepperell has a similar keepsake. He started walking toward the hole after striking the ball, knowing it would be close. He had no idea it would be perfect.

“I was kind of relieved I didn’t have to face a 3-footer in front of all those people,” Pepperell said. “And then, obviously, when it went in, yeah, what can I say? It was pretty awesome, to be fair.”

The birdies left Pepperell and Vegas tied for the lead in the final round at 14 under.

Jim Furyk and eventual winner Rory McIlroy supplanted them a few minutes later.

Pepperell and Vegas finished tied for third — thanks to two improbable putts.

“Unbelievable, man. Absolutely unbelievable,” Vegas said. “To choose that hole and make such an incredible putt with the tournament on the line, you know, it couldn’t be any more special. I was extremely happy to two-putt from there, and the moment I saw that ball anywhere close to going in, I got extremely excited. That’s kind of what that hole gives you, and that’s why this is such an amazing place.”

MATCH PLAY

Jim Furyk went from among the last players in the field at The Players Championship to a spot in the 64-man field for the Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks.

Sunday was the cutoff for earning a spot in the World Golf Championships event in Austin, Texas. Furyk, with his runner-up finish, moved from 167th to 57th. He was the only one to play his way into the field.

Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler are not expected to play, meaning the top 66 in the world get into the field.

Luke List, who had a 75-74 weekend at the TPC Sawgrass, stayed at No. 66. Satoshi Kodaira of Japan missed the cut and went from No. 61 to 65. Adam Hadwin of Canada missed the cut and dropped from No. 65 to No. 68.

For now, Joost Luiten of the Netherlands is the odd man out at No. 67. He would get in if anyone withdraws.

ONE YEAR AGO

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan went through the trophy presentation to Rory McIlroy, and then he dug through his files.

In a rare Instagram post, Monahan shared a letter McIlroy wrote him a year ago.

McIlroy wrote on May 22, 2018, that he enjoyed breakfast and conversation with Monahan and his wife, and was sorry to leave so early from a tournament he wrote “has all the feel now of a Major championship week.” McIlroy missed the cut last year at The Players Championship.

“I was very disappointed to be heading home on the Friday evening,” McIlroy wrote. “Hopefully, next year I can finally get my hands on the trophy.”

SIMPSON PENALIZED

Defending tournament champion Webb Simpson was assessed a one-shot penalty at No. 14 for inadvertently causing his ball to move. Simpson was trying to decide where to stand before putting from the fringe when his putter handle got caught in his shirt and caused the other end to touch his ball. It barely moved, but was enough to draw a penalty.

Had the incident happened on the green, no penalty would have been assessed under a new PGA Tour rule that allows for inadvertent contact on the putting surface.

“I thought it might be a penalty, but we called anyways,” Simpson said. “And if it’s on the green, it’s not a penalty. So this is where I’m going to be loud and clear, like we have to get intent into the rules. We have to because it’s killing our game when it comes to these kind of things.”

Simpson spent several minutes questioning the penalty.

“What they try to say is either it’s hard to write the rule with intent or you open it up for gray area,” he said. “Well, I think it’s actually the opposite because I’m playing with Lucas (Bjerregaard), we’re up there, why would I try to move the ball? Like, there’s no advantage. And there’s cameras everywhere, too. I don’t know if that got on there, but my putter hit my clothes, it moved it a quarter inch, I’m going to move it back.

“I’m hoping that somehow or another intent can get broadened, I guess.”

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