Smylie Kaufman went out early and fired a 10-under 61 to charge from seven shots back, outlast the field, and win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Here’s how Kaufman vaulted into the lead and then held on throughout the afternoon at TPC Summerlin:
What it means: This is Kaufman’s first PGA Tour win in only his fifth start. Seven shots back to start the final round, Kaufman finished his round just as the leaders were making the turn and had to sit and watch as six different players over the next two hours challenged and ultimately fell one shot short of his 16-under total. His move from T-28th overnight to first is the second largest comeback by position in PGA Tour history, trailing only Tommy Gainey’s win from T-29 at the 2012 McGladrey. This marks the first time rookies have opened the season with back-to-back wins on Tour dating back to 1960, with Kaufman following Emiliano Grillo last week. With the win, Kaufman earns Tour membership through the 2017-18 season, wins 500 FedEx Cup points, and earns an invite to the Masters, Players Championship and PGA Championship.
Round of the day: Just 1 under through his first 7 holes, Kaufman played his final 11 holes 9 under, with seven birdies, including four in a row from Nos. 8-11, and an eagle at the short par-4 15th, when he hit his 287-yard tee shot to 13 feet. Kaufman closed his round in style with a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole that ultimately won him the championship.
Best of the rest: William McGirt, playing in front of Kaufman, turned in a 62 and held a share of the lead before Kaufman passed him. Patton Kizzire, who shared the same swing coach as Kaufman growing up, shot 63 and missed a birdie putt on the 18th green that would have gotten him to 16 under. He spent the rest of the day watching the action next to his friend, Kaufman.
Biggest disappointment: For the second week in a row, Na (67) came up just short. After losing a playoff to Grillo last week in Napa, Na again appeared headed for overtime and perhaps his second Shriners title when he drained a 26-footer for birdie on 16 to tie Kaufman. Unfortunately, after missing the green short at the par-3 17th, he chunked his chip shot and ended up making bogey. A missed birdie putt at 18 left him one shot shy. Similarly, the 36-hole and 54-hole leader Stegmaier (69) came to 18 needing birdie to force extra holes, but his try from the fringe wouldn’t go, ending Kaufman’s multiple-hour wait for his first win.
Shot of the day: Kaufman’s birdie putt on 18 that proved the difference after a long wait.
Quote of the day: “So much more stressful than on the course. … I felt like I was watching an LSU football game.” – Kaufman on having to sit and watch.