PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) — The FedEx Cup playoffs opened with a “Caddyshack” moment.
While stately Ridgewood Country Club will certainly never be confused with fictitious Bushwood, a gopher – or was it a mole? – made a cameo appearance Sunday on the final hole of Vijay Singh’s playoff victory in The Barclays.
After Singh topped Sergio Garcia’s 27-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole with a 26-footer, the furry critter entered the scene on the 577-yard, par-5 17th.
First, Garcia uncharacteristically hooked his drive into the left rough. Then, with Singh in the fairway, Garcia’s second shot stopped behind a huge tree in the right rough. Singh then hit a 267-yard approach onto the green, about 20 feet long and right.
“I got stymied behind the tree and I got lucky because I got a drop because of some gopher holes or whatever it was,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t where my ball was, but like about 5 or 6 feet left. It was actually moving. You could see the grass going up and down. It was actually there and we were trying to find it, but we couldn’t.”
Able to get a clear path to the green, Garcia advanced the ball near the front of the green about 30 feet from the hole and nearly holed his chip. Singh then rolled his 20-foot eagle putt within inches for a tap-in birdie.
“I wasn’t really concerned about him,” Singh said. “I just wanted to know why he got a drop, there was obviously a mole there and he was burrowing at that moment, you could see him popping out. … I was really focused on what I was doing.”
The 45-year-old Fijian closed with a 1-under 70 to match Garcia (70) and Kevin Sutherland (68) at 8-under 276 on the A.W. Tillinghast-designed Ridgewood course, the first-time site after 41 seasons at Westchester Country Club.
“It’s a great golf course,” said Singh, the 1993, 1995 and 2006 winner at Westchester. “Westchester was a good golf course. This tops Westchester. Every single player out there absolutely enjoyed this golf course.”
The Bridgestone winner three weeks ago at Firestone, Singh earned 11,000 FedEx Cup points in the playoff opener to take the lead with 109,500 points – 5,125 ahead of second-place Garcia. Singh also earned $1.26 million for his 33rd PGA Tour victory.
Singh and Garcia, a two-time Westchester champion who won The Players Championship in May in a playoff with Paul Goydos, had the large crowd around the 18th green roaring with the birdie exchange on the first extra hole.
“I think he was surprised to make his,” Singh said. “I was surprised to see it go in and he was even more surprised to see mine go in.”
Singh and Garcia high-fived each other after Singh holed his putt.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Singh said. “It’s hard to see your friend not win, especially if he’s playing against you, but somebody has to win.”
Sutherland was on the back fringe in three when Garcia and Singh holed out.
“I really am happy with how I played and, obviously, disappointed I wasn’t able to play a little bit better in the playoff,” said Sutherland, third in the standings. “I’ve got to forget about that and think about the other 72 holes.”
Third-round leader Kevin Streelman (72), Ben Curtis (68) and Mathew Goggin (67) tied for fourth at 7 under, and Martin Laird (67), Justin Leonard (67), Nicholas Thompson (67), Mike Weir (72) and Paul Casey (72) followed at 6 under.
Garcia reached 8 under with a tap-in birdie on 17, and missed a chance to get to 9 under on 18 when he pulled a 16-footer. Singh, playing in the final group, reached 8 under with a two-putt birdie on 17, and also missed a 16-foot birdie try on 18.
“It was a tough day. It wasn’t easy to get close to the hole, so birdie was difficult to come by,” Singh said. “It was drying out really, really a lot, and you’ve got to play almost conservative on some holes.
“But it was a great playoff, though. I enjoyed that.”
Phil Mickelson shot a 68 to tie for 19th at 4 under. He dropped from third to fourth in the points standings entering his Deutsche Bank title defense.
“I was a good round and it gives me some momentum to carry over,” he said.
Steve Stricker, three strokes ahead after a second-round 64 and four in front at 12 under after 10 holes Saturday, had a 71 to join Mickelson at 4 under. The winner last year at Westchester, Stricker shot a 77 in the third round.
Kenny Perry, second in the standings behind the sidelined Tiger Woods entering the week, had weekend rounds of 72 and 76 to tie for 48th at even par. A three-time winner this season, Perry dropped to seventh in the points race.
Divots: Lee Janzen, the last qualifier at No. 144, finished at even par to jump to 119th – the second-to-last spot for the Deutsche Bank. Alex Cejka, in the Czech Republic for the PGA European Challenge Tour event that he sponsors, ended up 120th. … After the Deutsche Bank, the field will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship and to 30 for the Tour Championship. … Woods dropped to 15th. … The 2009 event will be played at Liberty National in Jersey City.