Westlake, OH – New Zealand's Steve Alker rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt on a record 11th playoff hole to defeat Dawie van der Walt and (finally) win the Cleveland Open.
Alker and van der Walt each had several chances to end things at Lakewood Country Club before the 42-year old Kiwi rolled in the first birdie of the extended session and earned his fourth Web.com Tour title.
The playoff was the longest in Web.com Tour history, topping a pair of 9-hole playoffs, and also matched the longest in the history of the PGA TOUR – 11 holes at the 1949 Motor City Open.
South Korean teenager and Monday qualifier Si Woo Kim (65) finished one shot out of the playoff. Jon Curran (69), Jason Gore (70), Jeff Curl (70) and Akron native Ryan Armour (70) tied for fourth, three off the pace.
"I had a lot of chances. I felt like I was inside of Dawie several times and had several chances to win," said Alker, who picked up a check for $108,000 and jumped from No. 102 to No. 12 on the money list through of 11 of 21 regular season events. "I got a little bit dizzy out there. At one point, and I can't recall when, Dawie and I looked at each other and I said is ‘is anybody going to win?'"
The pair went through a playoff rotation of 18, 18, 16, 17 18 and halved each of the first 10 holes with pars. Both missed birdie chances and van der Walt nearly chipped in once before Alker ended things at the 418-yard, 18th hole.
"I finally had a right number," he said. "I had 172 yards and just hit a perfect 7-iron."
Alker looked like he'd win it in regulation when he chalked up eight birdies in his first 16 holes to reach minus 16 and was up by three over eventual third-place finisher Si Woo Kim (65), who closed regulation play at 13-under par.
Two stumbles on the final two holes dropped him to 14-under 270 and then he waited as van der Walt birdied the 17th and 18th holes – the last a 20-foot snake that was perfect from the time it left his putter – to force only the second playoff on Tour this year.
"I played great on the front nine but then struggled a bit and missed a few fairways coming in," said Alker. "My putting kept me in there."
Van der Walt's putting got him into the playoff as he cashed in several bombs on his inward nine and closed with six birdies over 9 holes to catch Alker.
"I didn't think I had a chance after the bogey on 16 (in regulation)," said van der Walt, who picked up a check for $64,800 and moved from No.114 to No. 22 on the money list. "I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I just played 11 holes and couldn't make another birdie."
The win was the culmination of an outstanding week for Alker, who now calls Fountain Hills, AZ, home. On Monday he finished second in the 36-hole U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier in the San Francisco area and then grabbed a red-eye east to Ohio.
"I got about an hour's sleep" said Alker of his flights.
Determined to see a course he'd never seen, Alker managed to get 9 holes in Tuesday morning after driving directly to the golf course. He added the other 9 early Wednesday, teeing it up before the first tee time at 7:20 a.m.
"It's very satisfying," said Alker of the win. "I won last year and then to come out and win again this year is really pleasing since I haven't been in the habit of doing that."
Alker now heads to North Carolina for this week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He played in the Open last year for the first time, finishing T45.
FINAL ROUND NOTES:
* Sunday weather: Mostly cloudy with rain and thunderstorms during the morning and light rain showers during the early afternoon. Rainfall 0.30". Wind NE 6-12 mph. Daytime high 67.
* Sunday's final round was delayed due to thunderstorms from 9:57-11:16 a.m. (1:19 delay). The first groups off the tee had completed eight holes and the final groups off the tee had not yet completed their initial holes.
* Roger Sloan was disqualified prior to the start of the final round for signing an incorrect scorecard Saturday. Sloan failed to include a penalty stroke on his card in the third round.
* Today's 11-hole playoff is the longest in Web.com Tour history and matches the longest on the PGA TOUR. Below is a list of the longest playoffs on each respective Tour: