Bryan breaks through in homecoming
April 17, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Wesley Bryan's breakout win at RBC HeritageIn the final round of the 2017 RBC Heritage, South Carolina native Wesley Bryan strung together a strong push early to move ahead and claim his first career PGA TOUR win.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Wesley Bryan did not need any trick shots to become the latest rookie to win on the PGA TOUR.
Here’s five observations from the RBC Heritage, where Bryan stood tall for his native South Carolina and proved red tartan can go well with hot pink pants.
1. Wesley Bryan is clearly not short on confidence – and we mean that in the most positive kind of ways. Just a few years removed from battling on the mini tours, Bryan has rocketed to prominence in golf after winning three times on the Web.com Tour last year and now breaking through on the PGA TOUR in just his 18th start at 27 years old. He’s a testament to hard work but also having fun. Along with his brother, Bryan is famous for trick shots on YouTube, but now he’s proven there is so much more to his repertoire. Starting four shots back on Sunday, Bryan made his intentions clear with a run of four straight birdies from the fourth to the seventh holes. It was the first time in his short career he’d managed the feat. It rocketed him into the mix, and although a very nervous tee shot on the par-4 8th resulted in a bogey, Bryan composed himself and showed the poise of a veteran down the stretch. His ability to find birdies when others in the final groups were heading the opposite way earned him the plaid jacket. When he stood on the penultimate hole with the lead, he admitted to throwing up a little in his own mouth. But he swallowed it, and the nerves, and showed why he will be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year and could also make a run at the FedExCup.
2. In the 48 previous editions of the RBC Heritage, the local South Carolina fans always left Hilton Head well entertained and in good spirits. The vibe of the RBC Heritage is certainly a great one with everyone enjoying the atmosphere. But one thing was always missing. One of their own had never been the one to wear the tartan on the 18th green just a wedge away from the famous lighthouse. Wesley Bryan changed this. Born in Columbia, Bryan also attended the University of South Carolina, making him a true Gamecock. Considering the likes of Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover and Kevin Kisner are among the native talent, it was a special moment indeed for Bryan. His father, who once played in the event thanks to his performance in the local sectionals, was beaming brighter than anyone else.
3. How Luke Donald hasn’t won at Harbour Town is a downright mystery. The fact the former world No. 1 was even in the mix late Sunday is a miracle, yet there he was notching up his fifth runner-up finish in the event and seventh top-3 finish in the last nine years (2-2017, T2-2016, 2nd-2014, T3-2013, 2nd-2011, T3-2010, T2-2009). Donald was ranked 70th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and hit just 31 of 56 fairways for the week but put on a short-game clinic. His chipping and putting were basically sublime and his sand game should be bottled and sold at stores for thousands of dollars. It’s no secret Donald’s game from a few years back has gone south, but if his sharpness with the short game remains, you have got to think another win is still on the cards. His last PGA TOUR win came in 2012, but he has managed to make the FedExCup Playoffs in every season since existence. His result yesterday should help ensure this continues, as he jumped to 45th on the points list. Since 1934 (official PGA TOUR events), Donald is one of six players to finish runner up in an event five times. Only two players have more runner-up finishes in an event during that span: Jack Nicklaus (7, RBC Canadian Open) and Phil Mickelson (6, U.S. Open). Payne Stewart (5, The Honda Classic), Jack Nicklaus (5, Ford Championship at Doral), Greg Norman (5, BMW Championship) each have five runner-up finishes in the same event.
4. The game is certainly in good hands with another young player getting the job done. Bryan joined MacKenzie Hughes and Cody Gribble as rookie winners this season, and he also became the 11th player in their 20s (14 wins) to triumph this year. The youth brigade has sent the depth on TOUR to incredible levels, and with just a small glance at the final leaderboard, we see more young talent primed to perhaps be next. Patrick Cantlay notched up his second top-3 finish of the season, and Ollie Schniederjans was also in the mix Sunday, making the turn with the lead before finishing T3. JJ Spaun and Bud Cauley were also in the top 10.
5. Closing tournaments is certainly not easy, but it was surprising to see a couple of big names falter on Sunday. Two former major winners in 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner backed up pretty quickly. Of course, their games have not been at their absolute best lately, but it was still an eye-opener given their pedigrees compared to other challengers. Ian Poulter, another who has been searching for former form, also slipped back. Kevin Kisner, a loser in a playoff at Harbour Town in 2015, looked set to make a back-nine move. But the only way he moved was backwards thanks to four bogeys in his last eight holes. And then there was Canadian Graham DeLaet who was hoping to burst through for a maiden win in his 160th start. Sadly a triple bogey on the eighth hole ended his hopes. It just goes to show, pressure can get anyone, and no matter how far you’ve come in the game of golf, it can humble you quickly. Here’s hoping all of the above bounce back with great efforts next time out.
1. While Luke Donald’s short game was impressive, it was Wesley Bryan’s approach game that allowed the rookie to claim the win. An impressive 72 percent of Bryan’s total strokes gained for the week came from his performance on approach shots. In total, he outperformed the field by +8.4 total strokes on approaches for the week. Despite only hitting 31 of 56 fairways for the week, Bryan missed in the right spots and averaged 35 feet, 4 inches to the hole in Proximity. This led to a +2.113 strokes per round in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green.
2. Harbour Town Golf Links is known for their small greens yielding just 61.46 percent of greens in regulation for the field. But Bryan had ground to make up after hitting just 55.56 percent of his green. He did so by being dialed in when he was in the short grass. When in the fairway, Bryan took advantage averaging 24 feet, 2 inches in proximity - over 6 feet closer than the field average of 30 feet, 5 inches. Under the gun Bryan found his mark hitting his last six consecutive greens in regulation.
3. Bryan’s 40 greens in regulation marked the fewest number of greens hit by a winner at this event since Boo Weekley hit 40 at the 2007 RBC Heritage. Weekley ranked 39th in GIR that week. Fuzzy Zoeller is the only player to hit less and win at Harbour Town (since stats kept from 1980). Fuzzy hit 38 greens in 1986, but was ranked 21st in the field. Entering the week, the fewest number of greens hit by a winner on TOUR this season was 48 by Rickie Fowler at the Honda Classic.
4. With the win, Bryan collects 500 points and moves from No. 59 to No. No. 14 in the FedExCup standings. He is now 37th in the Official World Golf Ranking, having played just 33 counting events in his career. He is the sixth first-time winner of the 2016-17 season and became only the sixth player in 49 years to win the RBC Heritage on their first try, joining Arnold Palmer (1969), Bob Goalby (1970), Stewart Cink (2000), Jose Coceres (2001), and Boo Weekley (2007). He is the 12th player to post their first PGA TOUR victory at the RBC Heritage, joining Hale Irwin (1971), Graham Marsh (1977), Doug Tewell (1980), Nick Faldo (1984), Davis Love III (1987), Glen Day (1999), Jose Coceres (2001), Peter Lonard (2005), Aaron Baddeley (2006), Boo Weekley (2007), Branden Grace (2016).
5. Since the RBC Heritage moved into its slot after the Masters in 1983, Bryan becomes the seventh player to have won the event without having competed in the Masters the week before: Bryan (2017), Carl Pettersson (2012), Brian Gay (2009), Boo Weekley (2007), Aaron Baddeley (2006), Bob Tway (1995) and Davis Love III (1987). His four-shot, come-from-behind victory is the fifth consecutive winner at the RBC Heritage to come from at least three shots back on Sunday to win. Jim Furyk (2015), Matt Kuchar (2014) and Graeme McDowell (2013) were each four strokes back entering the final round during their victory, while Branden Grace came from three shots back in 2016. The four-shot deficit ties Brendan Steele (Safeway Open), Justin Thomas (CIMB Classic), Hideki Matsuyama (Waste Management Phoenix Open) and Russell Henley (Shell Houston Open) for the largest of the season. Through 23 stroke-play events in the 2016-17 season, 13 players entered the final round trailing and came from behind for the victory.
TOP THREE VIDEOS
1. When you’re 6 over on your round through 16 holes, you need something special to smile. Peter Malnati provided it with this ace.
Shot of the Day
Peter Malnati's superb ace is the Shot of the Day
2. Ian Poulter wears alligator skin belts. This guy was not pleased about that.
Ian Poulter's reptile rendezvous at RBC Heritage
3. Martin Kaymer entertained us all with his attempted bank shot off a grandstand.