Molder triumphs after marathon playoff with Baird

Updated: 2011-10-11 10:06


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Molder triumphs after marathon playoff with Baird 

US golfer Bryce Molder kisses his trophy on the 18th green after winning the Open after six holes of a sudden death playoff in San Martin, California October 9, 2011. Molder won his first PGA Tour title by beating fellow American Briny Baird in a nerve-jangling playoff.  [Photo/Agencies]

SAN MARTIN - Bryce Molder won his first PGA Tour title by outlasting fellow American Briny Baird in a nerve-jangling playoff for the Open at CordeValle Golf Club on Sunday.

Molder sealed victory with a six-foot birdie putt at the par-four 18th, the sixth extra hole, where Baird could only par after his drive ended up in thick rough to the right of the fairway.

As his ball disappeared into the cup, Molder dropped his putter to the ground in a mixture of delight and relief before embracing his caddie and shaking hands with Baird.

"It's a little surreal right now," the 32-year-old American said greenside in fading light after finally breaking into the winner's circle on his 132nd PGA Tour start. "A lot of golf today, but it was a lot of fun.

"You practice and you work and everything, and you just hope there is some validation behind it. I got some breaks at the right time today and I am excited."

Journeyman Baird, who had been seeking his maiden PGA Tour victory on his 348th start after career earnings of nearly $12 million, settled for a fifth runner-up finish on the circuit.

"I played really well," the 39-year-old American said. "Obviously I am very disappointed right now. It's upsetting but I honestly thought I'd be standing right where Bryce is.

"I had my chances, but I did some good stuff this week and I am happy with that."

The pair had finished the 72 regulation holes at 17-under-par 267, overnight leader Baird closing with a four-under 67 and Molder firing a seven-birdie 64.

While the long-time bridesmaids battled for the title, former world number one Tiger Woods was packed up and gone after posting 68 to finish 30th in his first event in almost two months.

American Bud Cauley, who turned professional before the U.S. Open in June, finished alone in third at 15 under par after signing off with a 66.

Three-times major winner Ernie Els, who had been tied for second place overnight, briefly held a share of the lead on the way to a 68 and a share of fourth place with American Shane Bertsch (64) at 14 under.

Two-Shot Cushion

Baird, two ahead of the chasing pack going into another sunny day at CordeValle, bogeyed the par-four sixth after missing the green to the left with his approach and was caught at the top by Cauley and Els.

Cauley rolled in a 20-footer to birdie the par-four eighth and South African Els, moments later, sank a five-foot birdie putt at the par-three seventh to make it a three-way tie.

Baird regained a one-shot lead when he coaxed in a 30-footer to birdie the eighth before reaching the turn a stroke in front of his rivals.

The leaderboard fluctuated wildly as the final threesome negotiated the back nine.

Little-known Bertsch vaulted to the top when he rolled in a 24-foot eagle putt at the par-five 15th before being caught by Molder, who birdied 10 and 12.

Bertsch stumbled with a bogey at the par-three 16th after overshooting the green off the tee and Molder briefly moved two ahead when he sank a seven-footer to birdie the 13th.

Baird closed to within a stroke of the lead with a two-putt birdie at the par-five 15th before he spectacularly regained control with a chip-in for eagle at the short par-four 17th.

Molder, who had horseshoed out with a birdie attempt from 10 feet on 17, signed off in style with an 11-foot birdie putt at the last to take the tournament into a playoff.