PITTSFORD, New York (June 18, 2011) -- Rory McIlroy has admitted that losing the 2011 Masters the way he did, imploding on Augusta's back nine on Sunday, will serve him well in the future, perhaps as soon as today at the U.S. Open.
Though it wasn't quite as big a stage, when Chase Wright left Monroe Golf Club Saturday afternoon, he may have been thinking the same thing after he allowed Albin Choi of Toronto to steal the Monroe Invitational Championship from him.
"It was a great tournament, but I kind of gave it away," said Wright, who had a four-shot lead with eight holes to go, and a two-shot cushion on the tee at the 72nd hole, before losing on the second playoff hole to the ever-persistent Choi.
"I'm going to get on the plane and hopefully I'll move on tomorrow morning," added Wright.
Wright, who will be a senior at Indiana University, blew his two-stroke lead when he bogeyed the last hole of regulation, and Choi, who will be a sophomore at North Carolina State, rolled in a clutch 20-foot putt for birdie to force a playoff.
They went back to play 18 to start the playoff, and after both players made par, they played it again, and finally, Choi's two-putt par was good enough to win when Wright missed a four-footer for par.
"It was hard to stay in it, but I kept telling myself par is a good score today, the scores aren't going to be that low," said Choi, who had three straight rounds of 68 before closing with a 67 for a 9-under total of 271."I just held in there and I'm happy I made that putt at 18."
Wright also closed with a 67, while Chris Morris had a 68 to finish alone in third at 274. Penfield's Yarik Merkulov had a 67 to wind up tied for eighth, low local player in the field, at 1-over 281. Pittsford's Dominic Bozzelli ended with a 70 to finish tied for 10th at 2-over 282.
The way Wright played most of the day, it was rather shocking that the tournament extended to extra holes, the first time since it went back to stroke play in 1998 that that has occurred.
He and Choi started tied at 6-under, but Wright made birdie at No. 3 to take the lead, and he pushed it to four shots with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 7 and 8, and another at 10.
He made his first mistake when he pushed his tee shot at No. 11 into the trees and made bogey, and after both players birdied the short par-5 12th, Choi chipped another stroke off his deficit with a birdie at 13.
They matched pars over the next four holes, but the action at 17 proved critical. Choi missed a short birdie putt, but then, with a chance to take a three-shot lead into 18, Wright missed as well. That left the door open for Choi, and he burst through.
"I was trying not to blow it by," Wright said of the tricky downhill 31/2-footer. "I had to hit it so soft and it just came off straight left."
Wright proceeded to push his drive at 18 into the right rough, then hit a poor approach from about 125 yards that caught a tree branch and came up 30 yards shy of the hole location, which was all the way on the back of the 18th green.
"No matter how many times you're in that situation, when you're on the 18th tee with a one- or two-shot lead, it can be hard to control your nerves," said Choi. "He was hitting the driver great all day and he just had a little mishit that led it off to the right. And then I knew he had a really tough pitch."
Wright hit that pitch off the back edge of the green, and had to get up and down to save bogey, while Choi was sticking a pitching wedge and making birdie.
Choi drove into the left bunker on the first playoff hole, but managed to get his second on the green. "I was just hoping for a good lie in the bunker, and I had one," he said. Wright was in the fairway, but he left his approach as far away as Choi, about 70 feet below the hole. Both made great two-putt pars.
On the second playoff hole, Wright drove into the right rough, then hit an 8-iron just off the back right edge while Choi was on in regulation, 30 feet away.
Choi two-putted, Wright failed to get up and down, and that was it.
"I didn't make a bogey for the last 36 holes, and that was my goal for the weekend," said Choi. "This is definitely one of my best wins and I can't wait to come back next year."
TOURNAMENT NOTES: He may have missed the U.S. Open, however ...
Choi may have wished that he was playing in the U.S. Open prior to this weekend, but a tournament victory here, and the knowledge that he has an exemption into July's Canadian open (based on his 2010 Canadian Amateur victory) will certainly allow him to enjoy Sunday's U.S. Open telecast.