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Sergio Garcia beats Brooks Koepka in playoff at Byron Nelson

By
Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange

IRVING, Texas -- Sergio Garcia kept getting himself into trouble in the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson on Sunday, but countered with some great work on and around the greens. His prowess with his short game culminated in a spot in a sudden-death playoff with third-round leader Brooks Koepka after regulation at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas.

But it was Garcia's work with the driver, and specifically a 310-yard bomb on the only extra hole needed, that helped him secure the win.

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Garcia, who had a 2-under-par 68 in the final round, and Koepka (71) were tied at 15-under-par 265 after 72 holes. In the playoff, on the 18th hole, Koepka hit first and pulled his drive into the pond to the left of the fairway. Garcia responded with a gutsy drive over the edge of the pond to the middle of the optimal landing zone.

After a drop and a penalty stroke, Koepka's approach from 161 yards ended up 20 yards short of the green, and he needed three shots to finish from there. Garcia hit a wedge shot on the green to 18 feet from the hole and two-putted for his first victory in the United States since the Wyndham Championship in 2012.

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"It feels amazing to win," Garcia said. "Obviously Brooks helped me a little bit but I hit three really good shots in the playoff -- tee shot, the second shot and the putt.

"I'm very proud of the way I played the last four holes in regulation, and it wasn't easy because I wasn't feeling as comfortable as some of the other days. I knew I needed to give myself chances."

Garcia hit two balls in the water on Sunday, but had a chip-in from 17 feet for par on the eighth hole and needed just 26 putts in the final round.

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Koepka's ready-made, head-to-head dual with hometown favorite Jordan Spieth never materialized as Spieth struggled with his game and fell out of contention on the front nine. Instead it was Garcia, playing two groups in front of Koepka and Spieth, who made the charge, shooting 68 in an up-and-down round that featured six birdies and two bogeys.

Matt Kuchar (69) finished alone in third, one shot out of the playoff at 14-under, with Colt Knost (65), Spencer Levin (66), Charles Howell III (66), Robert Garrigus (66), Tim Wilkinson of Australia (68) and Bud Cauley (70) tied for fourth at 13-under.

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Spieth was out of sync with his swing throughout the round and fell five shots back of Koepka after thrashing his way to a 2-over 37 on the first nine holes.

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When Spieth bogeyed the 12th, he dropped off the first page of the leaderboard and became an also ran in the field, finishing at 10-under and in a tie for 18th after a 74. In his six starts at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Spieth's final-round scoring average is 72.33, the highest of any of the four rounds.

"I actually felt very comfortable over the ball today," Spieth said. "It's funny how it works. Yesterday it was about as uncomfortable as I've ever felt over the ball and shot 3-under. Today I felt like I kind of fixed it a little on the range. I felt really good about it on the golf course today. I just didn't score well.

"I don't know exactly what happened, whether it was a break here, a break there, a gust of wind here or there that just let shots roll into tough locations," Spieth added. "I felt like I deserved a better score today than I did yesterday."

Garcia has now won nine times in the United States, tying Seve Ballesteros for the most wins by a Spaniard on the PGA Tour.

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"I've been awfully close the last four years on the PGA Tour and to win Byron Nelson's tournament again, doing it for the second time means a lot," Garcia said. "To be up there with Seve it means the world to me and can kind of say I went a little bit a la Seve today. I definitely wasn't driving the ball great until the end but I was chipping and putting great."

Garcia won this event in 2004 and has a solid history in tournaments conducted in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He made his professional debut at the AT&T Byron Nelson in 1999 and had his first PGA Tour win at the MasterCard Colonial in Fort Worth in 2001.

Koepka, unfazed over the first 13 holes by the overwhelming show of support for Spieth from the massive gallery, made lengthy par putts on the first two holes, survived a bogey on the third when Spieth bogeyed too, and forged birdies on the seventh and ninth holes.

At the turn, it was Koepka's tournament to win. Someone was going to have to make a real charge to even challenge him and several did, and it was Garcia who caught him.

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"I didn't have it the last 36 holes," Koepka said. "You can't win a golf tournament when you're swinging it and have no idea where it's going. It is what it is. You kind of play defensively, and that's not really what you want to do.

"I wouldn't even say I had my 'C' game. I had no idea where the wedges were going. We're pulling and pushing wedges 40 yards. I was backing out of it. I never felt like I really had a chance to go at a flag."

NOTES: The 16-under 194 total by Brooks Koepka tied the 54-hole tournament record at this event set by Loren Roberts in 1999. ... Koepka and Jordan Spieth, who were paired together for the second consecutive round on Sunday, were also in the final pairing earlier this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, with Spieth carrying a five-stroke lead over Koepka into the final 18 holes. Spieth went on to his seventh PGA Tour victory at Kapalua, with Koepka finishing in a tie for third. ... Saturday's showing produced Koepka's first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. ... Defending champion Steven Bowditch, who made the cut on the number this week, carded a third-round 5-over 75 to miss the 54-hole cut. This week snapped a streak of five consecutive missed cuts for Bowditch. ... There has not been a repeat winner of the AT&T Byron Nelson since Tom Watson won three in a row from 1978-80.

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