Far more often than not it takes a barrage of birdies to win on the modern PGA Tour. The latest example being the 25 that Patton Kizzire poured in over four days at this week’s weather-plagued OHL Classic at Mayakoba, where, despite two days of heavy thunderstorms along the Yucatan Peninsula, a marathon 36-hole finish and an inauspicious start to the final day, the 31-year-old held off Rickie Fowler by a stroke for his first career tour victory.
This win, like many, was about managing the bad shots as much if not more so than getting everything to click for the former Auburn standout. The greats in the game do this better than anyone, and that’s a big part of what makes them great.
Sunday was no different.
Kizzire, who began the final day in Mexico in a three-way tie for the lead with Fowler and Patrick Rodgers, hit a tree with his opening tee shot in the blustery third round and needed to make a 12-footer just to save bogey.
“To make that putt and kind of calm down and find my stride and start making birdies and get out front, you know, that felt really good,” Kizzire said. “I’ve been playing great, and I’ve had a lot of confidence right now. I was able to make some really critical putts and I was—that was a little chink in the armor, but I think it settled me in a little bit.”
And the putts kept dropping.
Kizzire made four birdies over his next seven holes following the shaky start, but the nervy par saves down the stretch late in the final round were the ones that stood out.
Up by four with seven holes to play, he made an eight-footer on the 12th, a 10-footer one hole later and another from eight feet on 14. Over his final nine holes, Kizzire made just one birdie to go with eight pars.
Fowler, meanwhile, did his best to erase the deficit with birdies on 16 and 17 to get within one. Yet on the final hole, he tugged his approach 35 feet left of the flag and came up short on his birdie try. Kizzire, meanwhile, two-putted from 25 feet and tapped in one final par for a victory that earned him a spot in the winners-only field at Kapalua in January and sends him to his first Masters in April.
“I had a lot of critical saves or birdie putts,” Kizzire said. “That's what you need to win golf tournaments.”
Fowler, meanwhile, was playing for the first time since the Presidents Cup five weeks ago. Rust hardly seemed an issue as Fowler opened with a 65 and was near the top of the leader board all week.
A pair of 67s to close was nothing to hang his head over, either. But the result was another in a line of recent close calls that didn’t go the 29-year-old’s way. For the 12th time in his tour career—and the third time since June—Fowler claimed runner-up honors.
“I made a couple long putts on the front nine. Hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in,” said Fowler, who made two bogeys in his first five holes in the final round, including one on the par-5 fifth. “Would have been nice to get one more.”
Yes, yes it would. Just ask Kizzire.