Long past the expiration date on the can’t-miss label he wore at the outset of his professional career, Jamie Lovemark is still demonstrating that he can miss.
Lovemark, 28, missed a 10-foot birdie putt to win, left it short, on the last hole of regulation in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Monday. He missed another 10-footer there to win on the first hole of a playoff with Brian Stuard and Byeong-Hun An.
Mostly, he missed an opportunity to put behind him years of unremarkable golf, albeit much of it the result of a herniated disc in his back, and to begin to deliver on the potential he brought to professional golf in 2009.
Stuard, 33 and a journeyman with only conditional status on the PGA Tour, won on the second playoff hole by hitting his third shot to the par-5 18th hole to two feet for a tap-in birdie. Lovemark, meanwhile, hit a perfect drive, then hit his second long and left and made par. Again.
“I hit a great drive on the second [playoff] hole and just kind of double-crossed myself,” Lovemark said of his second shot there. “Had a pretty good number to carry that front bunker and hit a bad shot. He hit an incredible shot from 160 yards. Very deserving.”
The double-cross has largely defined his career to date. Lovemark won the NCAA individual championship as a USC freshman in 2007 and was the Jack Nicklaus Award winner as national player of the year. Later that summer, he was 3-0 to lead a U.S. team that included Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson to victory in the Walker Cup.
He was the golden boy, with a laid-back demeanor that bespoke his San Diego roots. He surfs, enjoys throwing a football around or shooting hoops. He has been known to travel with his guitar.
“We have so much time in the hotel it’s a good little hobby,” he said a few years ago. “Once I’m off the golf course I really don’t think about golf much. Instead of just sitting there watching TV and being a couch potato, it’s something productive.”
Only his career has been off-key, thought the chords finally seem to be falling into place. The potential remains and Lovemark is gaining on fulfilling it. His runner-up finish on Monday was his fifth top-10 in 16 starts this season and was his first top-three finish since he lost the Frys.com Open in a playoff in 2009.
Though he has demonstrated he can miss, he is beginning to remind those that concluded he can’t miss why they had done so way back when.