Who was the biggest winner of the day depends on the picture you want to see.
Ellison and McGatha tied at the end of regulation at 8-under-par 136, but Ellison was declared the tournament champion on a scorecard playoff that went back to his spectacular chip-in for birdie on the 17th hole. The Sunny King Charity Classic partners then played off for the County Tour points, and McGatha won those with a par on the second extra hole to Ellison’s three-putt bogey.
The Cider Ridge tournament officials decided beforehand all ties would be broken by a scorecard playoff. The County Golf Tour rules stipulate points for first place must be played off, and club officials graciously allowed them to do so.
“I feel like I got the win (Sunday),” McGatha said. “I might not get the winner’s check, but I feel like I got the win. We played it off. I won the playoff.”
“I think it’s a halve,” Ellison decided.
Ellison shot 6-under 66 in the final round, claimed the tournament winner’s prize and his fourth straight Tour victory, but earned 250 Tour runner-up points. McGatha, the first-round leader who posted a Sunday 68, earned the 300 first-place Tour points, keeping his hopes alive for a second County Player of the Year trophy.
McGatha, the reigning County Player of the Year, would earn a share of the award with Ellison if he wins next week’s County Championship and Ellison finishes fourth or worse. The prize is Ellison’s any other way.
Both players treated the gallery to some SportsCenter highlight golf. When one leveled what appeared to be a momentum-changing blow, the other answered. When one appeared to blink, he recovered. It was that way throughout the back nine.
“I felt like I’ve been in a street fight,” Ellison said. “I feel like he got his punches in and I feel like I got my punches in.”
McGatha made a gutsy up-and-down for par on 14 to stay within a shot of Ellison’s lead, then birdied 15 to draw even.
Ellison made the first of his back-to-back chip-ins to salvage bogey on 16 after hitting two shots into the hazard — the only fairway he missed all day. Then on the next hole he hit the shot of the tournament — the one that won him the scorecard playoff — when he chipped him from deep rough behind the green to a tight pin.
“Given the circumstances, they were two of the best holes I’ve played in my career consecutively,” Ellison said.
McGatha needed a birdie on the final hole of regulation to win the Invitational, but he could only manage par after his second shot found the greenside bunker and he blasted out past the hole.
The players halved the first playoff hole — the par-5 18th — with McGatha chipping out from the trees on his second shot to eventually make par. The playoff moved to No. 1. With darkness falling, Ellison appeared to have the advantage with a drive that found the fairway, while McGatha landed in the right rough. Ellison’s approach landed about 25 feet behind the hole, while McGatha hit his second shot to 10 feet.
Ellison left his first putt six feet short. McGatha just missed his low and tapped in for par. Ellison’s par attempt burned the edge of the cup to end the playoff.
“I hate the (County Tour) points ended in a three-putt, but that’s part of it,” Ellison said. “The game gives and takes and I felt like the game gave to me on 16 and 17 and took back in the playoff.”