VERONA, N.Y. (AP) — With a golden harvest moon on the rise, Matt Kuchar and Vaughn Taylor never budged.
Tied for the lead after 72 holes at the Turning Stone Resort Championship, neither player managed to win after two holes of a sudden-death playoff Sunday. They birdied the first extra hole, parred the second before play was suspended, and will resume play at 8:30 a.m. Monday on the 13th tee for the $1.08 million top prize.
Both are 1-0 in playoffs. Taylor won a four-way playoff at the 2004 Reno-Tahoe Open and Kuchar captured the 2006 Henrico County Open on the Nationwide Tour in a playoff with Paul Claxton.
Kuchar, who began the day tied with rookie Scott Piercy for the lead, nearly gave away the tournament on the 72nd hole, hitting his second shot into a greenside bunker at the par-5 18th with Taylor already on the practice range at 17 under and hoping to avert a playoff.
“It’s easy to chunk the ball, and unfortunately that’s what I did,” said Kuchar, who missed the cut at the inaugural Turning Stone Championship two years ago. “Sometimes you can beat yourself up about it. I was able to kind of stay composed.”
Kuchar, with his wife and two young children looking on, responded by blasting a sand shot that stopped less than 5 inches from the hole.
“I was looking forward to testing myself,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. Here’s another test.”
Both found trouble on the next hole, the par-5 12th. Taylor drove way left and his second shot bounded down a cart path, coming to rest in rough near a television tower. Kuchar’s second shot also landed near the tower, necessitating a free drop, but both saved par in fading light.
“I felt good,” said Taylor, who will easily crack the top 125 on the money list no matter what happens in the playoff. “I was obviously nervous, but under control.”
Taylor, the second-round leader, began the day three shots off the lead and shot a 6-under 66 to match Kuchar (69) at 17 under.
Leif Olson (69), bidding to become the first rookie to win on tour this year, tied for third with Tim Petrovic (67) at 16 under. The two shared the first-round lead.
Because the course was still saturated with water after a week of rain, rules officials allowed the players to continue to lift and drop on all areas except teeing grounds, greens and hazards, and that was key for both Kuchar and Taylor on the second playoff hole.
Kuchar, who had six birdies and three bogeys on the day, trailed Taylor by a shot after a bogey at 13, then tied for the lead with an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 16.
After hitting his second shot to 20 feet of the pin at 17, Kuchar pulled the putt slightly and had to settle for par with just the 624-yard, par-5 finishing hole remaining.
Kuchar, in the final group with Piercy, got off to a rocky start with bogey on the opening hole when he was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker. He recovered nicely at No. 2, making an 18-foot birdie putt at one of the most difficult holes at the 7,482-yard Atunyote Golf Club course.
Kuchar also birdied No. 4, then faltered again at the fifth hole. He drove the left rough at the 550-yard, par-5 fifth hole and had to take a penalty stroke, then two-putted from 31 feet for another bogey.
Kuchar rallied with birdie at No. 8 and followed with a clutch 18-foot birdie putt at the ninth hole to tie Taylor at 16 under.
Taylor had two bogeys and four birdies on the front nine and briefly took sole possession of the lead at 16 under when he lofted a 70-yard wedge shot that took one bounce on the green and dropped into the hole for eagle at the par-5 12th hole.
If Kuchar heard the oohs and ahs from the gallery, he was unfazed. He sank an 8-foot birdie putt at No. 10 to break the tie and parred the tricky par-3 11th hole, the most difficult on the course. It yielded only four birdies on Sunday and 27 players bogeyed it.
Taylor fell back to 15 under when his second shot at the 15th hole landed in intermediate rough off the back edge of the green and he couldn’t salvage par. He rebounded with birdies at the next two holes, tying Kuchar for the lead with a clutch 14-foot putt at No. 17.
Before he teed off at the final hole, Taylor had the lead. Kuchar hit his second shot into the rough to the right of the green at No. 13, barely missing the massive water hazard that comes into play on four holes, and watched in dismay when his 10-foot par putt curled around the cup and failed to drop.
That dropped Kuchar into a tie for second with Petrovic and Olson. Taylor then parred the final hole and retreated to the driving range to play the waiting game, wondering if his lead would hold up for his third career victory.
Petrovic had a chance to tie but watched his 16-foot birdie putt at 18 slide by the cup. Moments later, Olson stared in disbelief when his birdie putt at the 17th hole stopped on the lip of the cup and did not drop. He nearly pulled off a storybook finish at 18 when his eagle pitch from the fringe bounced three times and struck the pin but failed to drop.