Abraham Ancer of Mexico wins FedEx St Jude Invitational

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Abraham Ancer reacts after leaving a ball short on the seventh hole during the final round in the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational tournament, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — When Abraham Ancer glanced at the scoreboard midway through his final round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational it was hard to imagine he’d be celebrating his first PGA Tour victory in a few hours.

Third-round leader Harris English was at 20 under. Ancer, playing the 10th hole, was five strokes behind at TOC Southwind.

“I said to (my caddie): `Harris is running away with it, I’ve got to make some birdies, I’ve got to make a move’,” Ancer said.

The 30-year-old Mexican player didn’t run off a string of birdies, but he played steady, bogey-free golf and won his first title — in his 121st start — beating Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and Sam Burns with a 6-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff.

“It was a dream come true to win on the PGA Tour,” Ancer said.

Ancer won the World Golf Championships event after Burns’ 5 1/2-foot putt — on the same line as Ancer — lipped out.

“This is surreal,” said Ancer, the former University of Oklahoma player who was born in McAllen, Texas. “I felt I left so many shots out there on the back nine, but you never know.”

Ancer became the fourth Mexican winner on the PGA Tour, following Victor Regalado, Cesar Sanudo and Carlos Ortiz, and the seventh player to win a WGC event for his first tour victory. He’s projected to jump to 10th in the world ranking.

Ancer, who finished second at the Wells Fargo Championship in May, played more aggressively on the second extra trip down the par-4 18th.

“I went right at it and the shot played perfectly in my mind and it came out just how I pictured it,” he said.

English, the leader after each of the first three rounds, faltered on the back nine to give Ancer, Burns and Matsuyama a chance.

English made a double-bogey 5 at No.11 after hitting his tee shot in the water.

“I played good on the front nine and just kind of hit a road bump on 11,” he said. “I got the wind (reading) wrong and it kind of went downhill from there.”

Ancer closed with a 2-under 68 to match Matsuyama and Burns at 16-under 264. Matsuyama shot a 63, and Burns had a 64. English, the 2013 champion at TPC Southwind, was a stroke back after a 73.

On the first extra hole, Ancer, Burns and Matsuyama, coming off a bronze-medal playoff loss in the Tokyo Olympics, made decent runs at birdies. Matsuyama had the shortest attempt — from 20 feet — and it nearly went in the cup before lipping out.

“It’s tough to lose in a playoff,” Matsuyama said. “but I wasn’t able to hit the fairway with either tee shot (in the playoff). I did my best.

English was seeking the fifth title of his career — and third this season — but collapsed on the back nine. Ahead by two strokes at 20 under at the turn, he played the back nine in 5 over. He missed a 13-foot birdie putt on 18.

Ancer only made one birdie on the back nine.

“It was definitely a surprise to win,” Ancer said. “I couldn’t believe I was tied for the lead on (No. 16). I thought I was four behind. But you never know in golf.”

Bryson DeChambeau, two strokes behind English after a third-round 63, had a 74 to tie for eighth at 12 under. He missed the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19.

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