Casey Johnson being involved in a playoff Friday for the Palmetto State Open at River Hills Golf & Country Club was no surprise.
Considering the Martinez, Ga., resident had been in six playoffs on the Swing Thought Tour’s Carolina Series in the past 12 months, it appeared likely once he took a one-stroke lead over four players through two rounds.
It was just a matter of who would catch him in the final round, and whether or not he’d prevail in extra holes.
It was George Bryan IV of Chapin who caught him at 13-under 203 with a 5-under-par 67, and it was Johnson who prevailed and claimed the $5,000 winner’s check in his seventh playoff on the tour in the past year when Bryan made a bogey on the sixth playoff hole.
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“I don’t know what it is,” Johnson said of his propensity for playoffs. “I mean, honestly it’s good playing. You’re beating everybody else in the field, you’re just tied with one guy. I’ll go out and play good and just be one short of winning it all clear.”
Johnson, 28, who played at Appalachian State, improved to 3-4 in his most recent playoffs. He had lost his past two after winning the previous two.
“I guess you get used to it,” Johnson said, “but you still are nervous. You’ve still got that bug in you when you’re in contention and duking it out with another guy. You definitely learn how to play them – when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, or choosing a certain club to hit off a tee that you may change up from previous rounds.”
Bryan, 27 and a South Carolina alum, showed there is more to his game than just trick shots. He is notably half of the Bryan Bros Golf trick shot duo with his younger brother Wesley, 25.
They gained fame early last year after creating a YouTube Channel and posting trick shots with GoPro cameras, and recently filmed a trick shot commercial for Bose speakers with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. That video will receive a lot of attention next week when McIlroy returns to action from an ankle injury at the PGA Championship at the course.
Bryan has played in fewer than 10 events this year because of his many Bryan Bros commitments. Wesley was planning to play at River Hills before undergoing sinus surgery.
“The Bryan Bros stuff is taking up a good bit of our time,” Bryan said. “But it’s kind of planned that way because we know the only thing that really matters in pro golf is [Web.com Tour] Q-School, so we plan all of our stuff in the early spring, winter and summer, then in July and August we turn our attention to playing to get ready for Q-School. The last four months we’ve been traveling on the road a whole bunch.”
Bryan and Johnson, who shot a final-round 68, finished one stroke ahead of Nick Palladino of Highland Heights, Ohio, and each made pars on the first five playoff holes.
Johnson nearly ended the playoff on the first extra hole – the par-4 18th – when he lipped out an 18-foot birdie putt. “I’m not sure how that putt missed,” Johnson said. “That was probably the best putt I hit all day. It’s one of those that if you hit that same putt again it probably goes in instead of lipping out.”
The playoff moved to the 10th hole and continued in numerical order on the back nine. Bryan’s best opportunity to win came on the par-5 11th, where his second shot from 235 yards landed on the green but bounced into a back bunker. Johnson’s second shot found water to the left of the green but he chipped close to save par and Bryan missed a 12-foot birdie putt from the fringe.
“I thought I hit it in there really close and it flies the green,” Bryan said.
On the deciding 429-yard par-4 14th hole, Bryan’s approach landed in rough along the banks of a pond to the left of the green and he missed a 12-foot par putt that would have extended the playoff.
Johnson got away with poor shots on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes by getting up-and-down for par on all three holes, and took advantage of his playoff experience. “It was definitely the worst I hit it all week in the playoff, but I hit a couple good chips,” Johnson said. “Because we played earlier today I knew where to miss it.”
Johnson played the LatinoAmerica Tour for the first half of last season. He received three cortisone shots in three months for a nagging wrist injury, and after taking three weeks off following the final one he caught fire, winning a Hopkins Tour event for $15,000, adding a pair of runner-ups on the Hopkins Tour, and going six consecutive events on the Swing Thought Carolinas Winter Series without losing in regulation.
He has played in the past five Swing Thought Pro Series events and recorded finishes of 15th, 12th and ninth in the past three through late June. “That’s good playing,” he said. “They have tough fields.”
The Bryans plan to play predominantly in Swing Thought Pro Series and Carolina Series events in the next couple months, though their trick shot careers will consume much of their time. They leave for Colorado on Saturday, then head to Atlanta and the Bahamas for trick shot commitments, and September is largely booked. Revenue from Bryan Bros Golf helps fund their mini-tour careers.
“It’s allowing us to play more professional golf, and that’s kind of our whole reason for pursuing it so hard,” Bryan said. “We also enjoy it. It’s like a hobby to me and Wesley. But our No. 1 goal is to get on the PGA Tour and we’re not going to let anything get in our way.”
Cory Martin of North Myrtle Beach shot a final-round 71 to finish eighth in the 36-player event at 6-under 210 and earned $850 of the $17,350 purse.
1, Casey Johnson, Martinez, Ga., 203, $5,000
2, George Bryan, Chapin, 203, $2,800
3, Nick Palladino, Highland Heights, Ohio, 204, $1,600
T4, Julian Suri, St. Augustine, Fla., 206, $1,150
T4, Dustin Korte, Metropolis, Ill., 206, $1,150
6, Ryan Martin, Prestonsburg, Ken., 207, $1,000
7, Chris Wolfe, Niceville, Fla., 209, $900
8, Cory Martin, North Myrtle Beach, 210, $850
9, Paul Woodbury, Lake City, 212, $800
10, Adam Hart, Blythewood, 214, $750
11, Yaroslav Merkulov, Penfield, N.Y., 215, $700
12, Scott Feaster, Columbia, 216, $650