SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Bryce Molder knows better than most that there’s no sure thing in golf.
That wasn’t the case when he left Georgia Tech nearly a decade ago after being an All-American all four years. And it wasn’t the case Sunday at the Frys.com Open in the longest playoff of the year on the PGA Tour.
Molder captured his first tour victory by making a 6-foot birdie putt on the sixth playoff hole to outlast Briny Baird.
"It’s a little surreal right now," said Molder, who won $900,000.
Molder and Baird were stuck in time, going from the 17th hole to the 18th hole in three cycles, matching birdies and pars, both players feeling at various points that they were going to win.
Three times, Molder hit driver on the 284-yard 17th hole over the water and had eagle putts for the win, each one a little closer to the hole than the previous one, all of them sliding by the side of the cup.
On the fourth extra hole, Baird felt like a winner when Molder drove into the hazard. Molder was able to get to the front of the green from the junk, while Baird’s wedge hit the top of the flag and spun back some 12 feet. He missed.
After nearly two hours, Baird blinked and Molder finally made a putt to win.
"You practice and work, and you just hope there’s some validating behind it," said Molder, who won in his 132nd start on tour. "I don’t feel I deserved to win. But I happened to settle myself down to play."
The playoff was packed with plenty of drama, and so was the rest of the sunny day at CordeValle.
Tiger Woods made news when a fan ran toward the seventh green as he was putting and tossed a hot dog in his direction. The 31-year-old man was arrested and never came close to Woods.
It was the 17th playoff this year on the PGA Tour, setting a record dating to the modern era that began in 1970.
Baird looked like a winner when he chipped in from short of the 17th green for eagle in regulation to take a one-shot lead. In the group ahead of him, Molder rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th to close with a 7-under-par 64, which got him into the playoff.
Baird, 0-for-348 in his 12 years trying to win on tour, shot 4-under 67. He twice had birdie putts on the 18th in the playoff to win, missing from 8 feet and 12 feet.
They finished at 17-under 267, then looked as though they never would finish.
"It’s more than disappointing right now," Baird said. "I had my chances. Given a chance, you’ve got to make putts."
If there was a consolation for Baird, he earned $540,000. Baird, who started his year with conditional status on tour, was at No. 148 on the money list and now is assured of getting his card back for next year.
Bud Cauley, a 21-year-old who turned pro this summer, shot 66 and finished third to earn $340,000, which looks as if it will be enough for him to earn a card next year without having to go through the qualifying tournament.