J.J. Spaun overcomes doubts to secure first TOUR title at Valero Texas Open
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Written by Kevin Robbins
SAN ANTONIO — A year ago, J.J. Spaun missed cut after cut. He wondered how much longer he could last.
His game was in a dark place. He was on his way to losing his PGA TOUR card. He was lost.
But then he found something.
The 31-year-old Spaun made a slight adjustment to his putting grip last week and won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday, his first in 147 TOUR starts.
Spaun started the final round with a share of the lead at 10 under. He lost it briefly, opening Sunday with a double bogey. He recovered with birdies at the sixth and eighth holes. He holed a greenside lob shot for another at the ninth. It was at precisely that moment that Spaun wondered if his good play could last long enough to let him win.
“Good things are happening,” he thought.
Spaun cruised through the back nine with two birdies and seven pars. By that time, he couldn’t be caught.
Spaun had made four other starts at the Valero Texas Open. He tied for 26th in 2018 and 49th in 2017. He missed the cuts in 2020 and 2021.
He shot 5-under 67 in the first round this year and was on his way. By Sunday, Spaun had committed to caution on a hard golf course in shifting winds.
“This course is a good course for being patient, hitting fairways and hitting greens,” he said.
He did everything else well when he needed to. Spaun ranked fifth for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, 10th in Off-the-Tee, 13th in Around-the-Green and 17th in Putting.
The San Diego State alum also collected 500 FedExCup points, moving to 10th in the FedExCup standings.
His final-round 69 put him at 13 under, two strokes clear of Matt Jones and Matt Kuchar. It also earned him a spot in his first Masters Tournament.
Spaun said he allowed himself to think Saturday night about the Masters. He entertained the possibility – and let it go.
“There was still so much to be done,” he said.
That work got hard early. Spaun’s opening double bogey dropped him to 8 under, with Beau Hossler, Dylan Frittelli and Brandt Snedeker leading.
Those players and many others encountered their own problems. Spaun was done with his.
He made six birdies and no bogeys through the rest of the final round. He made every crucial putt on the back nine.
Spaun became the first player to endure a double bogey on the first hole Sunday and proceed to win on TOUR since Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I’d rather double the first hole than the last one,” Spaun said.
Four hours later, he signed an otherwise clean scorecard and waited to see if Hossler would make albatross on the 72nd hole to tie him.
Hossler didn’t. On a day of many firsts, Spaun held a PGA TOUR trophy for the first time. He knew exactly how long he could last.
“It’s a great feeling to be in the winner’s circle, and now it’s like a game changer,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s just perseverance. Just trying to push through and stay strong.”