5 Things: Noh steadies himself for win; Bradley falters
It had all the signs of the classic collapse. Young kid with his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour plays three days without a bogey, then promptly makes a five at the par-4 first hole in Round 4. One hole later, he loses sole possession of first place, sharing it with a young veteran who has proven himself as a winner.
More like Oh, Noh, in the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans. Though he’s been a professional since 2007, Seung-Yul Noh is just 22 years old and a veteran to the ups and down of the PGA Tour world. He was 37th in the FedEx Cup standings as a rookie in 2012, then well on the outside looking in in 2013 at 160th.
But thanks to four solid days at a birdie-fest on the Bayou, Noh is not only the youngest winner on the PGA Tour for the 2013-14 season, he’s just the fifth Korean golfer to claim victory, joining K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang, Kevin Na and Sang-Moon Bae.
Rarely will you have so many in serious contention to win their first PGA Tour event, but that was the case Sunday. The top four names on the board – Noh at 19-under 269; Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb were two back; Jeff Overton three behind – were all winless, but one of them can adjust that part of his resume.
More Noh is among 5 Things from Sunday’s finale that you need to know:
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1. TREND CONTINUES: Though he had hiccups at the par-4 12th and par-4 15th, Noh showed tremendous poise. Not to mention a remarkable bounce-back focus. At the short, par-4 13th, for instance, Noh’s drive landed on firm turn, raced to the back of the green, and settled in rough on the downslope at the back of a bunker. A difficult shot, but here the kid discovered what is Rule No. 1 for any winner - you don’t prevail without breaks. His pitch shot came out hot and the ball seemed destined to go off the front of the green, only it hit the flastick, stopped within a few feet, and he calmly converted to get back to 19 under, leading by two.
Then, at the 16th, Noh led by just one when he stuck an aggressive 9-iron approach to 4 feet. When Streb at about the same time bogeyed the 17th, Noh was back in front by three.
The suspense was over, but a few storylines continued.
First, at 176th, Noh is the latest to win from the far reaches of the Official World Golf Rankings. This year we’ve already had No. 339 (Steven Bowditch), No. 127 (Kevin Stadler), No. 123 (John Senden), No. 112 (Scott Stallings) and No. 110 (Russell Henley).
Next, it must be the jambalaya because Noh becomes the seventh player in the last 10 years to make this tournament his first PGA Tour win. He joins Tim Petrovic, Chris Couch, Nick Watney, Andres Romero, Jason Dufner and Billy Horschel.
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2. RED STORM SURPRISE: So, you didn’t care what the odds were. You loved Keegan Bradley to be the low St. John’s golfer, given that he was two ahead of Svoboda going into Round 4?
Well, pay up.
While Bradley perhaps established a Tour record for most putts that hit the lip and didn’t go in – the most frustrating aspect to a disheartening day – Svoboda played steady, if unspectacular, golf to record his best-ever PGA Tour finish, a share of second.
As for Bradley, who graduated St. John’s in 2008, five years after Svoboda, what started promisingly – his birdie at the second had him tied with Noh, who bogeyed the first – quickly turned sour. The only player of the top six on the leaderboard through 54 holes who had won on Tour, Bradley bogeyed the fifth, doubled the sixth, then followed a birdie at the nine. Out in 39, he was out of contention, just the latest disconcerting Sunday effort. His scoring average for his last five Sunday rounds is 73.2 as he hasn’t shot better than 72.
Svoboda, the former club champ at Winged Foot, had never finished better than joint 15th and he had missed the cut in six of his previous starts this season. But when he navigated a deft two-putt from outside the town borders and birdied the par-5 18th, Svoboda secured a round of 2-under 69, finished at 17 under and was solo second.
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3. OH, AND SECOND FOR HIM, TOO: Svoboda wasn’t the only surprise name to settle into the runner-up position. Streb had never finished better than T-11 when he birdied the par-5 18th to shoot 70 and finish at 17 under, tied with Svoboda.
Mr. 126 from 2013, meaning Streb had missed the FedEx Cup playoffs by one spot and thus the fully-exempt status that comes with it, he slam-dunked a 38-foot birdie putt at the 16th and pulled within one of Noh. But when Streb bogeyed the par-3 17th, he fell three behind as Noh birdied the 16th at about the same time.
Though he hasn’t been a familiar name come Sunday, Streb remained perfect in bids to make the 36-hole cut this season – seven-for-seven. And his solid finish means he can add this week’s Wells Fargo Championship to his schedule, thanks to a top-10 finish.
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4. WEEKEND FIZZLE: The feel-good story of the tournament, David Duval’s re-appearance at the age of 42, never materialized. Having vowed that this is likely to be his last season asking for sponsor’s exemptions, Duval opened 68-69, the first time he has had back-to-back sub-70 rounds since late in the 2011 season. But a 70-73 weekend when everyone was tossing down rounds in the mid-60s left Duval in a free-fall.
He finished at 8-under 280, in a tie for 25th. While it’s easily his best finish in the last three years, Duval hasn’t been inside the top 20 since doing it twice early in 2011.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Robert Garrigus had the day’s best round, a 64, and advanced 36 spots into a share of fifth . . . . . Following a course-record 62, Ben Martin tacked on a 67 and was in the command. What ensued was a weekend slide, rounds of 73-75 and a fall into joint 11th . . . . . Erik Compton closed 68 – 274, secured a piece of fifth place, and the top-10 effort earned him a spot into this coming week’s Wells Fargo Championship . . . . . Justin Rose seems to be finding some form just in time to try and defend his U.S. Open title. He bogeyed the first hole, then played the next 17 in 5 under, shot 68, finished joint eighth, and has now been inside the top 15 in three of his last four starts . . . . . One day after the field blistered TPC Louisiana to the tune of a 69.988 field average, steady wind played havoc. The field average was 72.743 for Round 4.