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Emiliano Grillo brushes aside playoffs past to capture Frys.com Open

Among the perks that Emiliano Grillo earned with his Frys.com Open victory Sunday is an invitation to the Masters, where the Argentinian will play in his second major championship. Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

NAPA, Calif. -- An invitation with an Augusta, Georgia, postmark will arrive in Emiliano Grillo's mailbox sometime around the first of the year, maybe not the biggest perk from his victory on Sunday at the Frys.com Open but certainly the one that elicits the most excitement.

The Masters beckons for the 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie from Argentina, a goal that he had within his sights after playing on the European Tour earlier this year and then securing his PGA Tour card by winning the Web.com Tour Championship just two weeks ago.

But that dream quickly -- well, not that quickly -- became reality when Grillo rolled in a birdie putt on the second extra hole at the Silverado Resort to defeat tour veteran Kevin Na.

"It means everything,'' Grillo said. "They said the word 'Masters.' It's unbelievable. What can I say. It's great just thinking about it. I can't wait to get to that week.''

Grillo got into the playoff by draining a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th green -- he did the same thing two weeks ago at the Web.com event at the TPC Sawgrass Valley Course -- to move ahead of Justin Thomas, Jason Bohn and Tyrone Van Aswegen. He then waited as Na got up and down for a birdie to tie him in regulation.

From there, it was not the best display of golf, as Grillo missed a 3-footer on the first extra hole that would have won the tournament, then saw Na knock his second shot to the par-5 18th on the second extra hole behind a tree -- which led to Grillo needing just two putts for the victory.

He rolled it in on the first try, and won't care much about how it was accomplished as the days and weeks pass.

"There are no words to explain this,'' Grillo said. "This is the greatest moment of my life, golf-wise. It's been an incredible journey the last five weeks.''

Grillo made the Web.com Tour finals despite playing a limited number of PGA Tour and Web.com events. It was a tie for second at the 2015 Puerto Rico Open that basically got him into that four-tournament series -- but that was also the place where he suffered his greatest disappointment.

He missed a 3-footer for par on the 72nd hole that would have won the tournament and given him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. That led to a playoff defeat that brought money, but not tour status.

"One of the most painful times of my life,'' Grillo said.

But he endured, playing a full schedule on the European Tour, then taking advantage of his place in the Web.com Tour Finals, where he had three top-10s including a win to rank fourth on the priority exemption list for this season.

Then he was confronted with another 3-footer on Sunday to win -- and missed.

"It was the same type of putt I had in Puerto Rico, only I hit this one good," he said. "I don't know what happened."

He didn't let it bother him, however, as he went back to the same tee and managed to birdie the hole for the second time in three tries on Sunday.

If anything, what Grillo and those in contention showed again is just how difficult it is to win. The miscues down the stretch at Silverado were befitting a season opener, especially if you are of the mindset that there might be first-tournament jitters to overcome along with working the kinks out of games not yet in tournament condition.

That, of course, would be ignoring one of the big themes this week at the kickoff to the 2015-16 season that started mere weeks after the previous one ended.

For nearly all of the contenders Sunday, you certainly could not blame competitive rust. Those on the leaderboard competed at least once in the past month, some as recently as two weeks ago. Na had made it to the Tour Championship in Atlanta three weeks ago.

With Rory McIlroy not a Sunday factor, and Justin Rose's run stalling on the back nine, a tournament winner's check and two-year exemption -- among other perks -- was left to a couple of journeymen: a rookie and a projected star.

Grillo was playing in his first tournament as a tour member, Na his 300th. But they have something in common now -- a single tour victory. It was just Grillo's eighth overall start in a PGA Tour event.

Both broke away from a five-way tie for the lead with birdies on the 18th hole to relegate Bohn, Thomas -- who posted his first career top-three after a promising season -- and Tyrone Van Aswegen to a tie for third. Brendan Steele, who led after each of the first three rounds, shot 76.

An all-star cast it was not, and sterling golf it wasn't, either.

Grillo made an excellent 25-footer to get into the playoff, Na an impressive up-and-down, but neither player looked like he wanted to win when it got to sudden death.

Finally, it ended when Grillo's birdie on the second extra hole dropped.

Within minutes of his victory, No. 1-ranked Jordan Spieth tweeted congratulations to Grillo while also mentioning Thomas, Patrick Rodgers and Daniel Berger, who was the PGA Tour rookie of the year in the same season that Spieth won two majors. "Cool seeing the 11s always playing great,'' Spieth tweeted.

The reference was to 2011. The year they all graduated from high school.

Grillo attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he now lives and turned pro four years ago, making it to the European Tour, where he had moderate success. He had just a single professional victory, at a tournament in Argentina, before winning in each of his past two starts.

"This is awesome,'' he said. "I'm enjoying every second. Seems like the more I enjoy the better I play. So I'm going to go out and enjoy the Masters. You never know. I'm trying to follow my good friends Jordan and Justin. It's been great seeing them on TV.''

Grillo promises to be on the big screen with them.