Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club

cj cup byron nelson

Taylor Pendrith captures first PGA Tour victory with dramatic two-shot swing on 72nd hole

May 05, 2024

Tim Heitman

There wasn’t much evidence to suggest that Taylor Pendrith and Ben Kohles were on the verge of competing for their first career PGA Tour victory. But the two men wandered down the 72nd fairway late Sunday at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson with only a shot between them.

Kohles, the reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year, was one ahead. Pendrith, a Canadian playing in his 74th career PGA Tour event, knew he needed to make a birdie on the par 5, and perhaps even an eagle to get into a playoff at TPC Craig Ranch.

Until that point, the two had combined to miss 12 cuts this year—Kohles had one top-10 finish and Pendrith had two.

There were fireworks of sorts to even get to that point where they had a chance to win on 18. Kohles made birdie on both the 16th and 17th holes to capture the lead. Pendrith made six footers to save par on both holes just to remain within one.

In a stunning turn of events, Kohles left a chip shot short of the green, failed to get up and down and eventually made the only bogey of the day on the 18th hole. Yes, his only bogey of the day, but THE only bogey of everyone in the field. Then, when Pendrith two-putted from 40 feet, he replaced the one-shot deficit with a one-shot victory.

"I feel for Ben," Pendrith said. "He played really, really good today, especially down the stretch birdieing 16, 17. I've been on the other side of it a couple times and it sucks, but it's golf. It's a hard game.

"Obviously I'm thrilled to birdie the last and get it done. But feel for him."

Pendrith, 32, was already a little miffed when he arrived at the course Sunday. His beloved Toronto Maple Leafs lost a Game 7 in overtime, 2-1, to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night and were eliminated from the NHL Playoffs. Still he started the round with the advantage and remained steady, only making one bogey to go with five birdies for his final-round 67 to end at 23-under 261 total. Besides the two-putt birdie on the 72nd hole, the par saves on the 70th and 71st holes were as big as they come for the man looking to join Mike Weir’s International Presidents Cup team later this year in Montreal.

Until this week, results in his 10 starts this year read like this: T-10, MC, T-9, MC, MC, MC, MC, T-36, MC, T-11. The 11th-place tie came a couple weeks ago at the Corales Puntacana Championship, where he was in contention until a final-round 73 moved him down the leaderboard.

Now, suddenly, he’s qualified for next week’s signature event, the Wells Fargo Championship, which has guaranteed money attached to it.

“It’s super special,” Pendrith said. "I still can't believe that I'm a winner of this tournament. But I'm sure it'll kick in soon."

As special as it is for Pendrith, it was equally as devastating for Kohles, who has won four times on the Korn Ferry Tour, including twice in 2023.

The 34-year-old grew up in Dallas but moved to North Carolina when he turned 10 and didn’t take up golf until he was 15. Still, the area is special to him and he’d have loved nothing more than to have captured his first PGA Tour event at a place named for Byron Nelson.

Kohles, whose best finish this season is a T-6 at the Puerto Rico Open in March, applied pressure all day and looked like the man to beat until the bitter end. He rattled off four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 4-8, made seven straight pars before the terrific birdies on the 16th and 17th holes. On 16 he hit a laser approach from 180 yards to two feet and on 17 he smoothly rolled in a 20-footer to take the lead.

On the 72nd hole, Pendrith found the green in two and Kohles came up short and was in thick rough short of the green. His first chip failed to reach the green, leaving a more awkward stance and shot for his third. He managed to chip that one to five feet, leaving a par attempt he’d have to make to send the tournament into a playoff. But the putt slid left, and Kohles looked at his caddie as if it was a bad read more than it was a poor, pressure-packed stroke. It was only Kohles' third bogey all week, his first of the day and, again, the only one on the 18th hole of everyone in the field.

“It was sitting up a little bit, but honestly hadn't seen any rough like that all week,” Kohles said of his first chip, also noting that he hit his irons so well that he hardly chipped.

“Yeah, just didn't hit a great shot. Just needed a little bit more umph on it. I kind of maybe deceled a little bit, but you live and you learn."

At any rate, he’ll have to wait another day to secure his first tour victory. He still has plenty of time left in the season to become the fourth player in history to be the Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year and win the next year on the PGA Tour. He did, however, qualify for the Wells Fargo Championship next week at Quail Hollow.

"Did so many good things this week," Kohles said, "and I'm just going to keep reminding myself of that and try to get myself back in this position.”