Smylie Kaufman Fires 10-Under 61 to Win Shriners, Pick Up 1st PGA Tour Victory
LAS VEGAS (AP) Smylie Kaufman won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday in his fifth PGA Tour start, shooting a 10-under 61 and waiting more than two hours while rival after rival fell short.
Kaufman played the final 11 holes in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies. The 23-year-old former LSU player set up the eagle with a 3-wood drive to 15 feet on the par-4 15th and closed with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th to post 16-under 268 at TPC Summerlin.
”I was just hitting it so good the last few days and just wanted to give myself a chance and post a number, and that’s what it came down to,” said Kaufman, seven strokes back entering the round. ”I dodged a lot of bullets coming down the stretch with guys coming in. … So much more stressful than on the course. So much worse. I felt like I was watching an LSU football game.”
Kevin Na, third-round leader Brett Stegmaier, Patton Kizzire, Cameron Tringale, Jason Bohn and Alex Cejka tied for second, a stroke back.
Na, coming off playoff loss last week to Emiliano Grillo in the season-opening event in Napa, California, made a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th to tie for the lead, but bogeyed the par-3 17th after flubbing a chip, and missed a 15-foot birdie try on 18.
”The lie was actually sitting up too high, like it was on a tee, and I just went under it,” Na said about the chip. ”And with the Bermuda into the grain, I don’t know what happened.”
Stegmaier had the last chance to force a playoff, but hit his approach on 18 into the left fringe and came up short on a 20-foot birdie try.
”It was pretty significantly downhill, so it was all speed,” said Stegmaier, also making his fifth PGA Tour start. ”I mean, if the speed was off, the line was going to be off. I was probably a foot in the fringe, so I probably just held up that extra foot. I like to die my putts in the hole, and sometimes you run the risk of leaving it short.”
Kaufman became the second straight rookie winner on the tour, earning $1,152,000 and a spot in the Masters.
”It’s unbelievable,” Kaufman said. ”If you would have told me I had a round at the Masters, if somebody was going to take me out and not completely with the Masters, just to play Augusta National, I would have freaked out. But now that I’m playing the Masters, it’s a joke. It’s unbelievable.”
A former high school basketball point guard in Birmingham, Alabama, Kaufman began the year with no tour status, won a Web.com Tour event in May and earned a PGA Tour card with a high finish on the money list.
He visited the TV tower, relaxed with fellow Alabaman Kizzire and hit some balls on the range while the other leaders finished.
”He was keeping me calm, kind of cracking some jokes here and there,” Kaufman said about Kizzire. ”He actually made it a lot easier on me watching the finale.”
Na, the 2011 Las Vegas winner for his lone PGA Tour title, finished with a 67. Stegmaier shot 69, Kizzire 63, and Tringale, Bohn and Cejka 66.
William McGirt and Chad Campbell tied for eighth at 14 under. McGirt had a 62, going 9 under in a nine-hole stretch that ended with an eagle on the par-5 16th.
”I started off kind of sluggish,” McGirt said, ”but I kind of found something there with the putter on eight. … Starting where I started the day, to end up where I did, I’m tickled to death.”
Campbell had a 68.
Rickie Fowler finished with a 68 to tie for 25th at 9 under. Jimmy Walker, playing alongside Na in the second-to-last group, had a 78 to fall into a tie for 50th at 4 under.
”It’s been a fun week,” Fowler said. ”It was nice being back. A lot of positives coming out of the golf side. Got some stuff to clean up, but definitely enjoyed it.”