AVONDALE, La. – Everyone on the leaderboard at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans showed some Sunday nerves except the guy who walked away with the trophy.
Seung-Yul Noh earned his first PGA TOUR win Sunday at TPC Louisiana by playing a round of golf that made him look more like a 10-year veteran than a 22-year-old ranked No. 176 in the world.
“He was unflappable,” said caddie Scott Sajtinac, who is in his first week working with Noh. “He was calm 100 percent today. Even to the point where he laughed a little bit. I hadn’t seen him laugh the whole week.”
Noh played in the final group with Keegan Bradley, who started the day two off the lead, but finished in a tie for eighth after a final-round 75. When asked Saturday about the pairing with Bradley, Noh joked that it was “no problem.” After all, his friend Sang-Moon Bae was paired with Bradley in the final group at last year’s HP Byron Nelson Championship and Bae got the job done and claimed his first PGA TOUR win.
Noh followed suit on Sunday, moving to No. 16 in FedExCup points and earning a spot in THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA Championship and next year’s Masters.
“The whole last season was very good experience for my game, especially mental,” said Noh, referring to the struggles he went through in 2013, when he finished the season No. 160 in the FedExCup race. He had to regain his card at the Web.com Tour finals. “My mental game is stronger (after last season). So I’m never nervous.”
After the win Sunday, TOUR players Charlie Wi and Y.E. Yang ran out on the 18th green to celebrate their friend’s win with a beer shower. Yang was scheduled to take a 6:30 p.m. flight, but came back to celebrate with Noh.
“I know he struggled last year, but for him to bounce back this year, that’s what golf is all about,” Wi said. “I thought his demeanor today was awesome. I would have been rattled and nervous, but he sure didn’t look that way.”
Noh is the fifth Korean-born player to win on TOUR, joining K.J. Choi (8 wins), Yang (2), Kevin Na (1), Sang-Moon Bae (1).
WIND ADVISORY: Noh played his first 54 holes this week without a bogey, but that streak came to an end on the first hole of Sunday’s final round. He wasn’t worried.
“Forceful wind off the left, so I try and make a slow draw,” he said of his first tee shot. “But it just took the wind going way right.
“Bad bogey, but (in those conditions), not bad.”
Noh was hardly the only person affected by strong winds Sunday; with gusts of more than 30 miles per hour, the final-round scoring average (72.74) was nearly three strokes higher than Saturday’s third round (69.99).
“It was a different golf course,” said Bradley. “This is how it always is around here, it’s just the first three days we kind of got lucky with no wind.”
Noh grew up playing in ocean winds in South Korea and strengthened his wind game playing in Europe. It showed on Sunday when he was able to keep his ball low and find fairways late as he closed on his first career title.
“I knew he had that shot,” Sajtinac said. “He has a 2-iron that he just hits about knee-high. Literally. We used it a couple times out there.”
CALL OF THE DAY: Will Haskett calls Seung-Yul Noh's par at No. 18 to win the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
SUNDAY PHOTOS: Click below to see our favorite images from Sunday's final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
LEMONS INTO LEMONADE: One player that welcomed Sunday’s blustery conditions was Robert Garrigus, who turned in an emotional 64 on Sunday (Read more about that here).
Garrigus made eight birdies and an eagle in the final round. He closed with a birdie at the par-5 18th, where he hit a 374-yard (wind assisted) tee shot and had just 8-iron into the green.
“If I'm swinging well, I can bury it through the wind better than anybody,” Garrigus said.
ODDS AND ENDS
Seung-Yul Noh is the first player from a country outside of the United States or Australia to win on the PGA TOUR this season. Noh is the seventh first-time PGA TOUR winner this season. A player of Korean descent has won every year on TOUR since 2005… Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb tied for second. It’s the first top-10 finish on the PGA TOUR for both players. Streb has made all seven cuts this season. … Paul Casey tied for 11th. The top 10 earn an exemption into next week’s Wells Fargo Championship. Casey has not had a top 10 on the PGA TOUR since the 2011 Frys.com Open.
Category Leader Stat Field average Stat Driving distance Alex Prugh 324 Andrew Loupe 314.5 Fairways hit Derek Ernst 92.86% Boo Weekley 78.57% Greens in regulation Stuart Appleby, Derek Ernst, Robert Garrigus 83.30% Graham DeLaet 87.50% Proximity to hole Wes Roach 30'5" Michael Thompson 29'10" Strokes gained-putting Retief Goosen 2.616 Retief Goosen 2.684 per round
THEY SAID IT
“Rory, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, all the younger guys… I have to work hard, catch up with those guys.” – Seung-Yul Noh, 22, on other young players on TOUR. Noh is the 10th player in his twenties to win on TOUR in 2013-14.
“I told his family I was going to play for them and go shoot the grass off this place. I didn't know it would be Sunday in a 30 mile an hour hurricane.” – Robert Garrigus on his final-round 64. His caddie Brent Henley’s father passed away Tuesday.
“He’s kind of like Patrick Reed; he’s just steely. … He’s right there with them. He’s in control of everything.” – Caddie Scott Sajtinac on Seung-Yul Noh’s demeanor on the course.
“I looked at my track record and these next five or six weeks, usually there’s (courses) I play pretty good. I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks.” – Jeff Overton, who finished fourth, his first top 10 since the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Congrats to @nohsy0529 on his victory! Even more meaningful with him playing for South Korea and those affected by the ferry tragedy.— Jeff Overton (@JeffOvertonPGA) April 28, 2014