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Sepp Straka Claims Dramatic Victory at Honda Classic

By: | Mon 28 Feb 2022 | Comments


DANIEL BERGER cut a disconsolate figure as he threw away a five-shot lead on a dramatic final day at PGA National as Sepp Straka became the latest first-time winner on the PGA Tour.

On a day of drama, Berger stumbled to a final round of 74 on one of the most challenging courses these guys play. Straka, from Austria, missed a tiddler for par on the opening hole but birdied three of his final five holes as the rain poured down. The 28-year-old signed for a 66, which was good enough to give him a one-shot victory over Ireland’s Shane Lowry and a place in the field for The Masters..

“It’s crazy,” Straka said. “It’s a lifelong dream of mine just to be heading to Augusta in a month or so. It’s still surreal. I’m sure it’ll sink in here before long, but yeah, it’s just crazy.”

Tied with Lowry as he arrived at the par-five 18th, Straka hit a 334-yard drive, a six iron from 192 yards safely onto the putting surface in a downpour, and then rolled his 48-foot putt for eagle nine inches short of the hole. He tapped in for birdie to finish at 10-under 270. Lowry had played superbly all day but his third shot at the last left him a 40-footer for a birdie to force a playoff and it came up short.

Lowry shot a bogey-free 67 but said that having to play the 72nd hole in driving rain was “as bad a break as I’ve got in a while.”

Lowry turned in a beautiful card -15 pars and three birdies on a golf course where danger lurks at every corner - but in the end he failed to make birdie over his final seven holes.

In the end, it was hard to figure out who was happier: Straka, the first-time winner in his fourth season, or all of his fellow Bulldogs who stuck around to watch him win. 

“I think it validates a lot for him,” said Chris Kirk, a close friend of Straka who was also in contention until a triple-bogey at the 15th hole. “Obviously, he knows how great of a player he is - we all know how great of a player he is - but getting that first win, it’s unreal, for sure. Making it to the PGA Tour is one thing. Winning out here is a completely different story. It’s incredible.”

“This course is crazy,” Straka said. “There are no gimme holes at all. You want to stand on that 15th tee with a chance to win, and we were there.”

Straka would birdie the par-4 16th to tie for the lead, and he then made one final birdie at the last. He led the field in driving accuracy (hitting 47 of 56 fairways), hit 15 greens in the final round, and when he missed, scrambled well all week (13 of 17, which ranked third). 

Berger’s five-shot cushion was the largest 54-hole lead in tournament history. By the time he and Lowry stood on the sixth tee, they were tied. Lowry got there with birdies on the first and fourth holes, and Berger got there with a double bogey at the par-five third and bogeys at the fifth and sixth. 

“I was ready for anything out there today,” Lowry said. “I feel like mentally, I’m very good at the minute. And before I knew it, I was leading the golf tournament. It was great. I really enjoyed it. Quite nerve-wracking.”

Berger holed a bunker shot for birdie at the par-three seventh and, as hard as he fought, he would not make another until he holed a 28-foot chip at the par-4 14th. He hit a three wood into the water guarding the par-5 18th, which led to bogey and a fourth-place finish. 

“I didn’t play well, so I didn’t win the golf tournament,” Berger said. “That’s unfortunate, but I actually felt good. I just didn’t hit the shots that I needed to at the right time.

“That’s the way golf goes. There are plenty of guys that hit great shots today, and that’s why they’re winning golf tournaments.”

Champions Tour

MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ recorded his second hole-in-one of the tournament and closed with a 7-under 65 to win the Cologuard Classic.

Jimenez started the final round with a two-shot lead and got off to a birdie-eagle start at Tucson National. Reigning Charles Schwab Cup champion Bernhard Langer cut the lead to three with a birdie on the par-5 12th, but Jimenez followed with one of his own in the group behind.

The 58-year-old Spaniard ended any hope of a late rally with an ace on the 178-yard par-3 14th to match the one he had at the seventh in the opening round. Jimenez closed with four straight pars to finish at 18-under 198 and win for the second time in three PGA TOUR Champions starts this season.

Langer shot 65 to match Woody Austin (66) at 14 under. Jerry Kelly finished fourth after a 70 put him at 11 under.

Jimenez won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii and was fifth last week at the Chubb Classic in Florida. He opened the Cologuard Classic with a 66, thanks in part to his ace, and overcame two closing errant drives to shoot 67 in the second round.

Jimenez shot 4-under 32 on the front nine in his final round and bounced back from a bogey on the par-4 ninth - he hit behind a trailer left of the fairway - by getting up and down for birdie just short of the par-5 12th.

The European Tour record holder with 10 aces, Jimenez wowed the crowd with his hole-in-one at No. 14. He celebrated by raising his arms and doing a little shimmy, then walked arm-in-arm with Kelly onto the green.

Tim Petrovic had two aces in last year's Cologuard Classic.

Jimenez closed with an easy two-putt par for his 12th PGA Tour Champions win.

Langer made an early run in his bid to win consecutive starts on the PGA Tour Champions, pouring in four birdies over his first six holes. The 64-year-old German had three birdies on his back nine and saved par on No. 18 after hitting his drive into the water.

Langer broke his own record as the oldest winner in PGA Tour Champions history last week in Florida, putting him two behind Hale Irwin's record of 45 wins.

Austin had three birdies before bogeying the par-4 ninth hole, then had a run of three straight birdies starting at No. 11. He added a birdie on the par-5 17th and just missed another on the difficult 18th.


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