Bart Bryant was struggling as he seldom does as he played the back nine of the Allianz Championship on The Old Course at Broken Sound on Saturday.
Stepping up to the 18th tee, Bryant had bogeyed four of his past seven holes. Then, with one perfect swing of his club, he accomplished one of the rarities in golf.
Bryant recorded a double-eagle, making a 2 on the 507-yard, par-5 hole. He was stunned. The crowd was stunned. Fellow players were stunned.
The fans who witnessed it were so in shock that it took a few seconds for them to let loose with yelps, gasps and cheers that carried all the way back to Bryant in the fairway.
That singular shot turned Bryant’s frustration into a huge smile and also turned him into a co-leader in the Champions Tour event along with Paul Goydos, Rod Spittle and Tom Pernice Jr., all at 9-under-par 135 heading into Sunday’s final round.
Bryant said he did not even see the ball make its way across the green and gently roll into the hole.
“I really didn’t know, then I heard the crowd kind of going ‘Oh-h-h …’” he said, “and I thought it was going to be one of those ‘Oh-h-h … aww.’ Then all of a sudden it was’ Oh-h-h … yeah!’
“It was kind of surreal to some degree that it went in. In my mind I thought it was going to come close. Then it took me a second. I could not believe it.”
The shot, after what Bryant called a good drive, was a 6-iron from 195 yards out. The ball, lofted high, cleared a trap at the front of the green and seemingly took an eternity to finally make its way to the hole. It appeared the ball might pull up just centimeters short, but somehow it had barely enough momentum to tumble in.
Before the shot, Bryant told himself, “If I can get a 6-iron up in the air into the wind I might be able to carry the bunker and have a chance to make an eagle. I’d played so poorly I was reeling bad. I played more aggressive than I might have otherwise and hit it perfect.”
Bryant, 52, walked up the fairway acknowledging loud cheers as he reached the green. Then he reached down and extracted the ball from the cup.
Would he keep it as a souvenir? No.
“One gentleman really wanted it, so I said, ‘You want it bad enough, here it is.’” And he tossed him the ball.
“That’s a pretty big thrill,” Bryant understated. “But winning a golf tournament is bigger.”
And winning a golf tournament is what he will try to do Sunday.
Bryant, Goydos and Pernice all shot 66-69 for the first two rounds with Spittle (69-66) joining them atop the leaderboard.
Just behind that foursome is another group of four trailing the leaders by two — Guy Boros (69-68), Mark Brooks (68-69), Olin Browne (70-67) and Bernhard Langer (67-70).
But it wasn’t the leaderboard that was capturing the fans’ attention — it was Bryant’s double-eagle. And Bryant is starting to consider the 18th hole a good friend. For the tournament’s first two days, he had an eagle-3 on the hole Friday followed by the double-eagle 2.
What does Bryant expect to do on No. 18 in Sunday’s final round?
“I don’t think I can improve on what I did in the first two rounds,” he said. “I would take a four right now.”