American Troy Merritt, who missed the cut in his prior five starts, shot a four-under 67 on Sunday to win the Quicken Loans National and capture his first PGA title.
The unheralded 29-year-old held off US 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 US PGA Tour this season but the first in the history of the National.
“When it happens, you’re not thinking,” Merritt said of his breakthrough win. “You really don’t even know what your name is. I was just really happy.”
World No.180 Merritt, who fired a tournament-record 61 on Saturday, finished 72 holes at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on 18-under 266 for a three-stroke victory over Fowler with Lingmerth third on 270.
“I really made some golf shots coming in, battled all the way to the end,” Merritt said.
“In true Rickie fashion he never gave up. It’s great to battle a great player all the way to the end.”
England’s Justin Rose, the 2013 winner, shared fourth on 272 with New Zealand’s Danny Lee, Sweden’s Carl Pettersson and Americans Bill Haas, Justin Thomas, and Jason Bohn. Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa was another stroke back in 10th.
Aaron Baddeley finished as the best-placed Australian in a tie for 46th, 14 shots from the winner, while Steven Bowditch, four strokes adrift of the leaders after the third round, dropped out of contention with three double bogeys contributing to a disastrous 83.
Merritt, whose best prior finish was second at Memphis last year, tweaked his putting stance on Tuesday after weeks of frustration and it paid instant benefits, qualifying him for his first major in two weeks at the PGA Championship.
“You just don’t give up,” Merritt said. “You keep grinding.”
Lingmerth, who won his first PGA title in June at the Memorial, and Fowler, who won the Players Championship in May and the Scottish Open last month, each shot 69s.
Fowler birdied five of the last eight holes but made bogeys on four of the seven before that, his charge too little and too late.
“I was able to rally and make some birdies coming in but really disappointed with how I went out,” Fowler said. “Nice to kind of turn things around. Had to at least scare Troy a little bit.”