St. Simons Island resident Patton Kizzire scored his second victory of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season, taking a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in the Sony Open in Hawaii, the first event on the tour’s 2018 calendar.
Kizzire closed out the 2017 portion of the schedule with his first PGA Tour victory in the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, one week after tying for fourth in Las Vegas, one shot out of a playoff. Thanks to his strong start on the 2017-18 season, Kizzire has a significant lead in the FedExCup standings.
The playoff ended when Hahn bogeyed the par-3 17th hole after the players had matched two birdies and two pars each on the par-5 18th and both parred the 17th, which served as the third and sixth playoff hole. Kizzire barely made it past the first extra hole, saving par from a greenside bunker on the 18th after dumping his third shot from the rough into the sand.
Kizzire and Hahn both finished the tournament at 17-under 263. Hahn shot a final round 62 to make it into a playoff after beginning the final round seven shots behind third-round leader Tom Hoge, who finished one shot out of the playoff after closing with a 70.
Entering the final round, Kizzire was tied for second with fellow St. Simons resident Brian Harman, who wound up tied for fourth at 265 after a final round 70. Both players spent the final round in pursuit of Hoge, who held the lead until making double bogey on the 16th.
Kizzire shot 2-under 68 in the final round, his highest score of the tournament. He opened with a 67 that included birdies on five of his first eight holes, and followed with back-to-back scores of 64 with eight birdies both days. He closed strong in the second round with five birdies on his final nine, and recovered from an opening double bogey the next day, running off five consecutive birdies beginning at the sixth hole.
After notching 21 birdies the first three days, Kizzire had a mostly uneventful final round, beginning the day with nine straight pars on the front nine. The highlight of the round for Kizzire was an eagle on the short, par-4 10th hole, where he holed a pitch shot from 55 yards to tie Hoge for the lead.
Kizzire followed with a birdie on the par-3 11th to briefly take the outright lead, but Hoge birdied the 12th to pull even and regained the lead when Kizzire bogeyed the 13th. Kizzire had a chance to win the tournament in regulation, but was unable to birdie the 18th.
“The first win was big and this one was even bigger,” Kizzire said after his victory. “I’m just going to keep working hard. I want to get the third win.”
Kizzire had to battle down the stretch to score both of his victories. He had to go 36 holes the final day at Mayakoba to hold off Rickie Fowler, who trailed by four shots with seven holes to play before a late run of birdies. Kizzire preserved his lead with a string of clutch pars late in the final round, shooting 66-67 on Sunday to win the next-to-last PGA Tour event of 2017.
“I love trying to get better and putting myself in uncomfortable spots,” Kizzire said after his win in Hawaii. “That’s all I want to do is just be somewhere that I’ve never been because that gets me uncomfortable. That’s when I know I’m doing something right.”
With the two victories and the near miss in Las Vegas, where he came up one shot short despite a final round 64, Kizzire took a healthy lead in the FedExCup standings, and was still No. 1 in early February ahead of Jon Rahm, who is also second in the Official World Golf Rankings.
“Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the year,” Kizzire said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and a fast start is always a positive. I’m excited to be back on top and I look forward to taking that Cup.”
Kizzire is not unaccustomed to finishing the year No. 1.
In his first season on Web.com Tour in 2015, Kizzire earned the money title and Player of the Year honors, winning twice and tying for second in two other tournaments. Kizzire, a native of Tuscaloosa who played his college golf at Auburn, spent his first six years as a pro playing at the mini-tour level, making just six Web.com starts before earning status on the tour in 2015, not long after moving to St. Simons.
In his first start after earning PGA Tour status, Kizzire tied for second in Las Vegas in 2015, and also opened the 2016-17 season with a runner-up finish in Napa, Calif. He enjoyed solid seasons in each of his first two years on tour, finishing 58th in the FedExCup standings in 2016 and 87th last year following a disappointing finish after his fast start.
Kizzire’s victory in Mexico earned him an invitation to the 2018 Masters, and with his second win of the young season, Kizzire is a virtual lock to qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake for the first time.
In addition to Kizzire, three other Georgia residents placed in the top 10 in Hawaii led by Harman, who finished in the top 10 in his first starts in the 2017-18 season, including four top-5 finishes. Harman is ninth in the FedExCup standings and is the only player in the top 10 who has not won a tournament thus far this season, as he looks to make a return visit to East Lake this year.
Harman began the final round one behind Hoge, but fell back after a double bogey at the sixth hole. He moved back into contention with an eagle at the par-5 ninth and a birdie at the 12th, but two bogeys on the back nine cost him a shot at victory. Harman, a Savannah native and former Georgia Bulldog, has moved up to 20th in the world rankings, while Kizzire improved from 105 to 54 in the OWGR with his victory.
Recent Georgia Tech standout Ollie Schniederjans of Powder Springs tied for seventh at 266 with scores of 66-65-67-68. Former UGA golfer Chris Kirk, a Woodstock native who is living in Athens, tied for 10th at 267. It was the second straight top 10 for Kirk, who closed out 2017 with a tie for fourth in the RSM Classic at Sea Island GC along with Harman.
Schniederjans and Kirk also played well in Phoenix, with Schniederjans shooting the low score of the final round (65) to tie for third, and Kirk finishing in a tie for 11th. Schniederjans moved up to 27 in the FedExCup standings and Kirk advanced to 37.
A total of three former Georgia Tech golfers posted top-5 finishes in Phoenix, with Matt Kuchar and Chesson Hadley both tying for fifth. It was the fourth top-5 finish this season for Hadley, who is back on the PGA Tour this season after earning Player of the Year honors on the Web.com Tour in 2017. He moved up to 14 in the FedExCup standings.
Four Georgians were in the top 30 after the tournament in Phoenix. Augusta native Charles Howell, who tied for sixth in San Diego is 26. Luke List, who grew up in north Georgia, tied for 12th in San Diego and is not far outside the top 30 in the 40th spot.
Former Georgia Bulldog Harris English, like Kuchar a St. Simons resident, snapped out of a lengthy slump with back-to-back finishes of 11th in Palm Springs, Calif., and eighth in San Diego.