The Zurich Classic of New Orleans was Jamie Lovemark’s to win.
Tied Monday at 15-under with Byeong-Hun An, who had just finished with a birdie, Lovemark hit the front right edge of TPC Louisiana’s par-5 18th green in two shots.
Eighty-five feet from the cup, Lovemark needed two putts to clinch his first PGA Tour victory, a difficult but not impossible distance to traverse in two. Harold Varner III had just two-putted for birdie from a similar spot.
But Lovemark’s first putt came up nearly 10 feet below the cup and his second came up six inches short. He tapped in for par before Brian Stuard drained a birdie putt from 7½ feet to force a three-way playoff Stuard eventually won for the Zurich Classic title.
“Just crazy slow,” Lovemark said describing the eagle putt. “Just bad speed. The second one, I just blocked it.”
The three re-played the 18th, with An taking himself out of it with a bogey. Lovemark again had a birdie putt to win that this time slid by the right side, settling for par as did Stuard.
“That one was blocked an inch” right, Lovemark said.
On the second playoff hole, it was advantage Lovemark. He split the 18th fairway 280 yards from the green while Stuard had an awkward stance with one foot in a fairway bunker that forced him to lay up before hitting to two feet with his third.
Lovemark described his next shot as a dreaded “double cross,” a shot he expected to fade right that instead hooked wildly left near the grandstand. He left his third shot short of the green and watched his pitch shot fourth roll past the hole outside Stuard’s mark.
“I usually play left to right, and somehow I managed to smash it right to left,” Lovemark said. “Just a bad swing at a bad time. He (Stuard) made a great birdie.”
The 28-year-old Lovemark, who turned pro in 2009, is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory. Qualifying for the tour this year after finishing seventh on the Web.com Tour in points last season, it’s Lovemark’s best finish since he was runner-up in the 2009 Frys.com Open.
“I feel great. No complaints. Just muddy,” Lovemark said, referring to the rain-soaked conditions.
“I’ll be in another playoff, and I’m sure I’ll win.”
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.