PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- There is no instant replay in golf, but it sure seemed that way Friday at the 53rd PGA Match Play Championship at PGA Golf Club
For the second consecutive year, Adam Rainaud of South Hadley, MA., beat Rich Berberian in the finals to claim the final title of the PGA Winter Championship Series.
Rainaud won three consecutive holes on the front side of the Dye Course and cruised to a 4-and-3 victory over Berberian. Rainaud, who won 5-and-4 last year, had three birdies and an eagle.
“It was similar weather and we finished one hole later,” Rainaud said. “It feels like last year was yesterday.”
Rainaud had to survive a nine-hole playoff in Wednesday’s second round against Mitchell Camp – Rainaud’s second nine-holer in the last two months – to have a chance to defend. Rainaud, a PGA Assistant Professional at Black Hall Club in Old Lime, Conn., is 12-0 in the Match Play.
“It was similar to last year, when I made a birdie putt on 18 to go into extra holes with Jeff Sorenson,” said Rainaud, who has been living this winter with PGA Tour pros Morgan Hoffmann and Derek Fathauer. “I made three putts in that match (against Camp) that I had to make, and that’s what makes me feel good about my game.”
Berberian was hoping to avenge last year’s finals loss, but was three-down after six holes and won only one hole.
“I played just as good in that match as I did in my other matches, but Adam played pretty perfectly, honestly,” Berberian said. “He didn’t miss too many shots. The two he did miss, he got up-and-down for pars.”
Rainaud became the fifth player to defend his title, joining Bob Sowards (2012-2013), Gene George (1996-1997), Lonnie Nielsen (1987-1988) and Bob Brue (1975-1976). The list of previous PGA Match Play champions includes Jim Dent, Dana Quigley and Bruce Zabriski.
Sowards was unable to become the first player to win four PGA Match Play titles, losing 1-up to Berberian in the semifinals. But Sowards didn’t go down without a fight.
Sowards made a hole-in-one with a 4-iron from 223 yards on the 16th hole to draw even, but Berberian birdied the 17th to regain his lead. Sowards missed 15-foot birdie putts on the last two holes.
“I liked my spot after the hole-in-one,” Sowards said of his sixth career ace. “But even though it was a hole-in-one, it was just another hole. I wish it would have been stroke play.”
“It’s very disappointing not to win (for the fourth time). I was always fighting from behind in the match. I didn’t play bad. He just outplayed me.”
Rainaud beat Jeff Wells of Redondo Beach, Calif., 5-and-4 in the other semifinal.
The 29-year-old Rainaud was an All-American at Louisville, but the 6-foot-7 long hitter gave up his hopes of playing on the PGA Tour after one failed try at q-school.
Winning consecutive PGA Match Plays isn’t going to change his thinking.
“I like being around people,” Rainaud said. “I always wanted to be a head professional. It’s nice to go home every night. I work a lot, but I have a lifestyle I enjoy.”
The Match Play Championship is the final event of the PGA Winter Championship season sponsored by Premier Golf and Golf Advisor.
Friday’s semifinals and finals results from the 53rd PGA Match Play Championship on the 7,053-yard Dye Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.:
Adam Rainaud, South Hadley, MA, def. Jeff Wells, Redondo Beach, CA, 5-and-4.
Rich Berberian, Derry, NH, def. Bob Sowards, Dublin, OH, 1-up.
Rainaud def. Berberian, 4-and-3.