Jacksonville Sports Day

GOLF: Nicholas Lindheim Earns Playoff Victory at the DAP Championship

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nicholas Lindheim described the 35-footer that rammed into the back of the hole and dropped as “destiny,” but it was also his redemption.

After falling in a playoff a year ago at the DAP Championship, he poured in that lengthy birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday to defeat Rob Oppenheim and Chesson Hadley for his second career victory.

“I think last year I was just content being in the playoff,” Lindheim said. “I played it like six inches outside the right edge. I didn’t say firm it, but I ended up firming it and it was destiny. That’s all I can say.”

The victory was particularly satisfying considering he nearly gave it away. After a birdie on the 16th hole to take a two-shot lead, he finished bogey-bogey and had to hole a 4-foot putt on the 72nd hole to pencil in his spot in the playoff. When that putt went in, he went into the playoff feeling like he had nothing to lose.

“Golf is so hard, just controlling your emotions is one thing and then swinging a club with all those thoughts in your head. It’s tough,” Lindheim said. “In the playoff, it was kind of a free wheel. I focused hard on the putt. I focused hard on the drive and on my iron shot and it paid off. The putt went in going pretty quick, but it went right in the middle. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

It’s also Lindheim’s time to return to the PGA TOUR, where he finished No. 197 in the FedExCup standings a year ago. With the victory, he has secured his card for next season, and he returns having proven to himself something that he wasn’t able to during his rookie year on TOUR.

“Winning on this golf course proves to me that I have what it takes to play some very good golf courses. I didn’t really prove that this year,” Lindheim said. “I got my butt beat in pretty hard, but I hope that I can feed off of this and know that I can play championship-venue golf.”

For Oppenheim, whose 12-footer to extend the playoff slid past the edge, the sting of defeat was softened by the fact that the runner-up finish locked up one of the 25 TOUR cards handed out in the Web.com Tour Finals.

“Obviously, the goal was to get back to the PGA TOUR, so I’m excited about that. Obviously, now, it’s a bit bittersweet after having a chance to get it done,” Oppenheim said. “But, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting that when I finished. [Lindheim] made that putt, and I had a great look, right below the hole, and I think once he made that it made me get a little bit aggressive. I didn’t want to leave it short, and I hit it too hard, hit it through the break. I gave it a chance, though.”

Hadley lipped out a birdie putt on the 72nd hole, which would have been for the win. On the first playoff hole, he hooked his drive left and missed his approach left of the green. Lindheim buried the birdie putt before Hadley even got the chance to attempt his par putt.

“Honestly, I didn’t play well enough to win,” Hadley said. “Although I halfway won maybe with that putt on 18, but I didn’t hit it well enough to win. Congrats to Nicholas. I didn’t have my best this week, and to be able to do what I did, I’m certainly very proud.”

What Hadley did is lock up fully-exempt status on TOUR next season and a spot in THE PLAYERS Championship. The 30-year-old leads both the Regular Season and Finals combined money list and the Finals money list with only one event remaining and is locked up to win at least one of those two money lists.

“That’s awesome. That’s huge,” Hadley said. “I’m fully exempt out there, and it allows me to take weeks off.”
Ten players in total secured TOUR cards in Cleveland – Lindheim, Oppenheim, Mitchell, Troy Merritt, Martin Piller, Corey Conners, Brett Stegmaier, Denny McCarthy, Bronson Burgoon, and Joel Dahmen.

That list includes a trio of newbies. Mitchell (T6), Conners (T11), and McCarthy (T17) all locked up TOUR cards for the first time with their finishes Sunday.

Mitchell, who finished No. 26 on the Regular Season money list and missed his card by one shot, will be one of three players on TOUR from the same high school team, joining Harris English and Stephan Jaeger.

“It’s one we’ve been battling the last three weeks, so it hasn’t really sunk in yet at all,” Mitchell said. “It was business as usual out there just trying to get it done. If we started thinking about it, then you never know what’s going to happen. We stayed as focused as we could, so it feels really good to be done. I know we’ve got one more tournament, but it’s such a weight off my shoulders going into that week and the rest of the year.”

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