HONOLULU — Whether he was playing money games with the other caddies in Argentina or playing mini-tours on his long road to the big leagues in golf, Fabian Gomez couldn’t recall ever making seven straight birdies. He won’t forget Sunday in the Sony Open.
That amazing birdie streak — no putt longer than 12 feet — carried him to an 8-under 62, and the 37-year-old Argentine won with his 11th birdie of the day on the second playoff hole to outlast Brandt Snedeker.
"I felt good all week long and was about to put on a great round today," Gomez said through a translator. "And I had Brandt Snedeker in front of me. I got on a streak with seven putts in a row. And it makes me feel good and feel like I could win the tournament."
Gomez won for the second time on the PGA Tour, and this one was much tougher.
Starting the final round four shots behind, Gomez seized control with his seven straight birdies starting on No. 6, only to follow with back-to-back bogeys that let Snedeker and Zac Blair back into the game. Gomez closed with a 7-iron to 10 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th, and a 20-foot birdie putt from just off the 18th green.
He finished at 20-under 260.
Snedeker hit a delicate 55-yard pitch to 4 feet for birdie to close with 66 and force a playoff.
On the first playoff hole at the par-5 18th, Snedeker missed a 12-foot birdie for the win. Going back to the 18th tee, Gomez had enough. He had not hit the 18th fairway all week, and it was the hardest fairway to hit on Sunday. He had never made birdie on the par 5 until Sunday in regulation.
So he went with hybrid off the tee to stay in the short grass, drilled a 3-iron to the front of the green and lagged his long putt close for a tap-in birdie. This time, Snedeker couldn't match him. His 10-foot putt had slower pace than he wanted and it peeled off to the right.
"It's frustrating because I couldn't make putts to win the golf tournament," Snedeker said. He said leaving his 12-foot putt to win on the first playoff hole "is going to sting today and tomorrow."
Zac Blair, who shared the 54-hole lead with Snedeker, had a 10-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to join them, but it missed on the high side. He had a 67.
Gomez won the St. Jude Classic last year by four shots and already was in the Masters. This victory moves him to No. 55 in the world and greatly improves his chances of playing in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
His 62 was the lowest closing round by a Sony Open champion.
Blair nearly joined the playoff with a 3-wood he called the best of his life from 280 yards on the closing hole at Waialae. "Oh my gosh, that's so good," Blair said as he watched it bound forward onto the green to 10 feet. He needed the eagle to join the playoff. It stayed just above the hole.
"One of the best putts I've probably ever hit right there on 18," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't go in."
Si Woo Kim, the 20-year-old from South Korea, was part of a five-way tie for the lead briefly. He closed with one bogey and five parts for a 68 to finish fourth.
Graham DeLaet, from Weyburn, Sask., was the top Canadian. He shot a 4-under 66 in the final round to move up into a tie for seventh place at 14 under. Adam Hadwin, of Abbotsford, B.C., came in at 5 under while Abbotsford's Nick Taylor finished the tournament at 1 under.
Kevin Kisner, playing in the final group for the third time in his last four tournaments, ended his streak of 15 consecutive rounds under par at the worst time. His best putts were to save par until a wild tee shot on the eighth led to double bogey, dropping him five shots behind. Kisner still was in the mix until a bunker-to-bunker double bogey on the 17th ended his day. He closed with a 70 and tied for fifth.
Snedeker came out flat with seven pars and a bogey and twice fell three shots behind. But with birdies around the turn, an 8-foot birdie on the 14th and Gomez making those two bogeys, he was right back in the mix.
He took the lead for the first time all day with a gap wedge he stuffed into 3 feet for birdie on the 16th, but moments later, Gomez made his birdie on the 17th.
In the second tournament since the ban on anchored strokes typically used for long putters, Blair was asked to review his stroke on the 17th before signing his card. He used a fairway metal to putt out of light rough, and a television replay made it look as though the end of the club might have been touching his body.
After a brief review, it was determined the club did not touch his body.