PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Patton Kizzire had a four-shot lead with seven holes remaining, right about the time nerves can surface for a player trying to win his first PGA Tour title.
Kizzire made it look like a walk on the beach.
Never flinching during a 36-hole Sunday with Rickie Fowler, Kizzire saved par with big putts on three holes on the back nine, closed with rounds of 66-67, didn’t make a bogey over the final 21 holes and won the rain-plagued OHL Classic at Mayakoba to earn his first trip to the Masters.
Fowler fell too far behind and began his rally too late. Two straight birdies brought him to within one shot going to the 18th at El Camaleon Golf Club, only for Fowler to hit a short iron some 35 feet left of the flag and leave his birdie attempt short.
“I was glad to get it done,” Kizzire said. “Rickie made me work hard.”
Kizzire began his marathon day by making a 12-foot bogey putt on the first hole of the third round. He began the final round by making a 10-foot par save.
“We could go on and on,” he said. “I had a lot of critical saves or birdie putts. That’s what you need to win golf tournaments.”
He now speaks from experience. The 31-year-old Kizzire, who took a long road to the PGA Tour after leaving Auburn, won in his 62nd career start as he begins his third full season in the big leagues.
He finished at 19-under 265 and the perks were just starting to sink in. Kizzire earns a two-year exemption through the 2019-20 season. He starts next year on Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Championship at Kapalua. He’ll be at the Masters in April and the PGA Championship in August.
“I’ve been thinking about this moment for a long time,” he said. “I’m really excited, and it brings a big smile to my face to think about all those things.”
Si Woo Kim tried to get into the mix until a double bogey in the middle of his back nine. He still closed with a 65 to finish third, his best finish since he won The Players Championship in May. Charles Howell III (66) and Martin Piller (65) finished five shots behind. John Oda of UNLV, playing his first PGA Tour event as a pro, closed with a 70 to finish eighth. That gets him into the RSM Classic next week at Sea Island.