Michigan’s Brehm & partner Hubbard finish third at the Zurich Classic

Ryan Brehm

Ryan Brehm

When a friend congratulated Michigan’s Ryan Brehm on his stellar play last Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the PGA Tour’s only team event, he replied back in a text: “Man, that was intense.

As it was for fans watching on television.

Brehm and Mark Hubbard fought admirably, and at times even heroically, in falling a shot short of being in a playoff with Rory McIlroy & Shane Lowry and Chad Ramey & Martin Trainer where Mcllroy and Lowry eventually prevailed. Finishing solo third, Brehm and Hubbard each earned $343,763.

Still, Brehm, 38, and Hubbard, 34 were not dejected by the outcome. Being interviewed after the round, Hubbard said: “This event is awesome, and man, it was fun watching him (Brehm) play today. He played so good. Obviously, we’re bummed to fall one short, but like we’ve both said to each other multiple times, we’d have taken this at the beginning of the week.”

Mark Hubbard

Mark Hubbard

Then Brehm added: “Yeah, our main goal was to give ourselves a chance. That rarely happens in golf when you say, hey, we want to give ourselves a chance. Mark hit a great drive on 18 and I found myself with a 3-wood into the green, and I’m like, this is it, this is the chance we were looking for.

“I hit a great shot (that went over par-five 18th green), and Mark hit a great chip that held up, and then I hit a great putt that didn’t go in. You’ve just got to move on and really take a lot from it because I think it could be a confidence booster for both of us.”

Starting the week, the team of Brehm and Hubbard was definitely under the radar. Brehm has had an off year, making only 4 cuts out of 12 tournaments. Hubbard has fared better, making all 12 cuts and finishing T-4 at Pebble Beach, where he earned $877,500.

Close friends on and off the course, along with their spouses, Brehm and Hubbard played in the tournament a few years ago when they finished T-14. After the first round last week, the duo was tied for the lead at 11-under par in the four-ball (aka best ball) format. The second round, as was the final round, was conducted in the demanding foursomes (aka alternate shot) format. But they had a strategy that worked well: for the even holes, Hubbard teed off as he cuts the ball and on the odd holes Brehm teed off as he draws the ball. Their respective holes suited their tee shots.

Two shots back of the leaders when they teed off on Sunday, they were paired in the next to the last group with the popular Irishmen Mcllroy and Lowry. Brehm and Hubbard got off to a nice start with a birdie on the par-five second hole while the Irish bogied the first and third holes. After the usually reliable Hubbard missed some crucial putts for par and birdies, Brehm came through with a sensational shot on the difficult par-3 9th hole when he stiffed it close, and Hubbard converted.

Brehm’s superb shotmaking and deft putting also led to birdies on 13 and 14. On the dogleg par-four 391-yard 13th hole, Brehm drove the green prompting CBS-TV golf commentator Frank Nobilo to exclaim, “Best shot I’ve seen all week.” Hubbard missed the eagle putt, settling for a birdie. On the next hole, Brehm holed a downhill putt from just off the green for anothe birdie. Match on!

It all came down to the par-five 18th hole. After Hubbard’s good drive, Brehm rifled a 291-yard three-wood to the green where it bounced over and into the rough. As Brehm described, Hubbard hit a solid chip, but it didn’t release and stayed on the fringe. Brehm just missed the birdie with a rock-solid stroke.

Meanwhile, Lowry made a sensational bunker shot for the duo’s third and Mcllroy converted it for a birdie.

In the interview afterward, Hubbard summed up the week despite falling short. “Our friendship wasn’t going to change, and our families are still going to hang out, and we’re all going to party tonight. It was an awesome, awesome week, and we’re very lucky that we get to do it together. It’s a great event. But as far as just us, we’re going to be all right no matter what.”

images courtesy of the PGA Tour

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