MISSOULA – Ryggs Johnston moved a stroke ahead of Patrick Murphy on the first hole Monday. Thirty-nine holes later, Murphy finally had the lead and the win.
The Calgary native made the most of his first time in Missoula, winning a U.S. Amateur Qualifying Tournament at the Ranch Club in a third playoff hole over Johnston. Murphy now moves on to the big tournament at Pebble Beach, California next month.
“(Monday) was one of the longest days of golf I’ve every played,” said the UCLA senior shortly after his triumph in the evening. “It was really difficult because he birdied the first hole. And I didn’t have the lead for 11 hours until the final putt, so that was a grind.”
After 36 holes, Johnston and Murphy remained tied at 5-under par. They both finished three shots ahead of third-place Joey Moore of Billings, the only other player to finish the two rounds under par.
Johnston, who became perhaps the youngest winner in the history of the Montana Men’s State Amateur Tournament on Saturday in Butte, had several chances to add another impressive title. The soon-to-be senior at Libby High School barely missed a birdie putt on the first playoff hole (the par-4 10th). The 21-year-old Murphy answered with a saving par putt from 10 feet out.
Then on the par-3 11th, Johnston again set up a possible winning birdie putt. But his long look broke around the cup. Murphy once again hit a clutch six-foot par putt to extend the playoff.
On the par-4 18th, Johnston chose driver off the tee, and his gamble proved costly when his ball rolled into a pond along the left side of the fairway. Murphy chose his 2-iron off the tee and remained safe, but clutch putting was needed once again.
Johnston recovered to within 10 feet after a drop. Murphy stared down a 25-foot birdie try from the fringe. He chose to leave the flag in, and his long put hit the pin, leaving only inches for par. Johnston then burned the right edge on his par attempt, ending the match.
Patrick Murphy, Canada -5 (won on 3rd playoff hole)
Ryggs Johnston, Libby -5
Joey Moore, Billings -2
AJ Armstrong, Canada E
Mark Mance, Whitefish E
Owen Murray, Canada E
Garrett Woodin, Billings E
Tyler Saunders, Canada +2
Caleb Stetzner, Anaconda +2
Mark Haghani, Wilson, WY +3
Josh Berze, Canada +4
Dean Naime, Rye, NY +5
Naoki Iwasaka, Canada +6
Nick Obie, Bozeman +6
Sean Ramsbacher, Missoula +7
Jacob Bradley, The Woodlands, TX +8
Jack Johnston, Missoula +8
Hotae Kim, Billings +8
Clayton Tribus, Madison, WI +8
Chris Goldan, Bozeman +9
Liam Clancy, Park City +10
Jordan Miller, Anchorage, AK +10
Caleb Trost, Billings +10
Nick Jankiewicz, Great Falls +12
Riley Lawrence, Helena +12
Jason Chesbro, Missoula +14
Cameron Flores, Post Falls, ID +14
Daniel Crippen, Missoula +15
Evan Miles, Kalispell +15
Max Toenjes, Hamilton +18
Berry Roberts, Billings +25