Stuard beats Lovemark in playoff

For Brian Stuard, 11 years of hard road ended in the Big Easy.

Stuard tapped in a two-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to turn back Jamie Lovemark and win the rain-shortened Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana.

Byeong-Hun An dropped out of the playoff with a bogey on the first extra hole.

“I just liked the way I hung in there,” said the 33-year-old Stuard, who played bogey-free for the entire 56 holes to earn his first pro victory in his 120th start on the PGA Tour. “My short game was awesome and my putting was great. To win this week (and earn a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour) is going to make the rest of this year and next year a little easier, I guess.

“I know Jamie hits it a lot farther than I do, so in the playoff I knew I had to hit some good wedges. The last one (from 160 yards) was on a good line but I was just hoping it was the right distance and obviously it was.

“I started getting nervous waiting to hit the putt, but I was able to knock it in. It means a lot and it feels great.”

Stuard closed with a 3-under-par 69, holing a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to get into the playoff as the event was shortened to 54 holes because of thunderstorms throughout the week.

Lovemark, from Rancho Santa Fe and USC, also was seeking his first PGA Tour victory and closed with a 68, while An, who was won three times as a pro but also is winless on the PGA Tour, finished with a 65.

Lovemark hit the green on the par-5 18th green in two shots in regulation, but three-putted from 90 feet, leaving his seven-foot birdie putt barely short. Then he missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole before yanking his second shot far left and settling for par on what proved to be the final hole.

“I just double-crossed myself; it was a bad shot,” Lovemark said of the approach on the second playoff hole, which landed near a grandstand, from where he failed to reach the green with his third shot. “I missed a couple of chances, but (Stuard) is a very deserving winner.

“He hit a an incredible shot from 160 yards.”

Bobby Wyatt shot a 64 that was the low round of the day and finished one stroke out of the playoff in solo fourth, while top-ranked Jason Day of Australia posted a 66 and was another shot back in a tie for fifth with Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, who totaled 70, and Chris Kirk, who recorded a bogey-free 65.

“I just wish it was 72 holes,” Day said.

Charley Hoffman of Poway, who won the Valero Texas Open last week, finished with a 66 and tied for 11th.

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