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Farmers Open playoff runs out of daylight, so Day and Noren will battle again on Monday

Tod Leonard, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Golf

SAN DIEGO -- The sun had long dipped into the nearby Pacific Ocean. The yellow, near-full moon was brightly reflected in the pond on the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines South Course.

And Jason Day wanted to keep on playing in the Farmers Insurance Open, like five bucks were on the line instead of the first prize of $1.24 million.

The Aussie and a Swede, Alex Noren, had played five playoff holes -- three times matching with birdies on the par-5 finisher.

But everybody decided to call it an evening when Noren had to squint to see the line on his 5-foot birdie putt that kept the battle alive.

"I would go still," said Day, mostly joking while standing on the 18th green with the light of a television camera illuminating his face. "We just need a few cars on the fairways to show us where we're going."

Fans would have been thrilled to oblige to see a finish meant for the movies, but the combatants were forced to come back on Monday. They will begin at 8 a.m. Pacific time on -- fittingly -- the 18th hole, and then, if needed, move to the par-3 16th and par-4 17th before returning to 18.

The playoff is already the longest in the tournament's 50-year history at Torrey Pines. Only twice before had extra play gone three holes or more -- Woody Blackburn's win in 1985 (four holes) and Phil Mickelson's 2001 victory (three).

"I'll play all day tomorrow if I need to get the win," said Day, 30, a 10-time tour winner and former world No. 1 who is trying to capture the Farmers Open for the second time since 2015. "This is why we practice. It's a lot of fun to be out here in amongst the crowds and having a lot of fun."

Whoever wins will hoist the trophy to a few golf claps.

As was the case in 2016, when a violent Sunday storm felled numerous trees on the golf course, Farmers Open officials decided not to allow spectators on the course on Monday, citing security and volunteer issues. In '16, Brandt Snedeker won without hitting a shot on Monday.

Considering the late drama on Sunday, the winner this time around will have to do something special on the 18th hole.

After Day finished with a par at 18 to shoot 2-under-par 70 and post the clubhouse lead at 10 under overall, Noren -- a 35-year-old with nine wins on the European Tour but none in the U.S. -- had the last, best chance to win in regulation.

Noren went for the green in two with a 3-wood, but flew it, got a crazy bounce, and the ball jumped into an exit tunnel under the grandstands.

"Almost hit me," said Century Club President Steve Finder, watching the play and anticipating handing the trophy to somebody.

The ball kicked off an equipment box, made a left turn and came to rest next to a temporary walkway.

The break for Noren is that he could take a drop in front of the grandstand with no penalty, and he made an excellent pitch to give himself two putts for par and a round of 73 that tied him with Day.

With Santa Ana winds wreaking havoc on the simplest of iron shots, neither Day nor Noren made a birdie on the back nine in regulation.

Ryan Palmer hadn't either until he reached 18. Then the 41-year-old, with three career tour wins, stuffed a wedge shot to 18 inches to make birdie, score 72 and get into the playoff.

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Palmer was quickly ousted on the first go-around at 18 in the playoff, only able to make par. It was Noren who made a spectacular play, hitting his third shot to 2 feet for a certain birdie.

Pressure on Day. He responded with a shot to 10 1/2 feet, and coolly made the putt to stay alive.

The two halved 18 again with two-putt birdies. They split the 16th and 17th with pars, and with the light quickly fading, both birdied 18 for a third straight time.

"It's like match play coming down the stretch," Noren said. "It's so important over every shot, and maybe not as much as in stroke play, you can play safe sometimes, and you can play aggressive (at other times).

At 18, he said, "You need to play aggressive to finish it out."

With the winds gusting at 20 mph at times, the conditions were extremely difficult, and the day's best score was 69. The scoring average was a full 21/2 shots higher from Saturday to Sunday -- 72.20 to 74.77.

"More like U.S. Open golf than European golf," Noren said.

Tiger Woods, who garnered much of the fan and media attention during the week in his first PGA Tour start in a year, was gone hours before the late theatrics. But he was happy with the "fight" he showed in making his first weekend appearance in an official tour event since 2015.

He shot 72 on Sunday to finish at 3 under and respectably place in a tie for 23rd.

"Very pleased," Woods said of the week. "After not playing for a couple of years and coming out here on the tour, playing a solid four days, I fought hard for these scores. They weren't like drive it down the middle, hit on the green, two putts -- one of those yawners."

That Woods scored what he did was fairly remarkable considering he hit three fairways in each of the last three rounds. His percentage of 30.41 fairways found was the worst for any tournament in his career.

Woods has a lot of work still to do before he compete in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, Feb. 15-18.

Asked what his list of priorities is before he arrives in Los Angeles, Woods said, "Everything."

(c)2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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