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Ben Kohles falls on 72nd hole, loses to Taylor Pendrith by one at THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson

4 Min Read



    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    Ben Kohles made Sunday’s only bogey on the par-5 18th hole at THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson. It cost him a chance at his first PGA TOUR title.

    Kohles arrived at the 72nd hole at TPC Craig Ranch with a one-shot lead over Taylor Pendrith, but the Dallas native found a greenside bunker in two, left his third in the rough, chipped to 5 feet and couldn’t convert. Pendrith two-putted for birdie and the win, a stunning twist of events in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

    Even after the gutting finish, Kohles vowed to focus on the positives. It has been a long and winding career, but he eventually made it to this point – contention on the final hole on the PGA TOUR. He got here, and he can get here again. Also importantly: he qualified for next week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, in his adopted home state of North Carolina, via the Aon Swing 5.

    “Of course it stings, right? You feel like you had it right there and let it slip away,” Kohles said afterward. “I'm just taking all the positives. It was an unbelievable week. I get to go back to my home state and I think I got into (the Wells Fargo Championship) for next week, which is pretty awesome. If you told me I got into that, beginning of the week, I would definitely take it. Just going to take the positives and keep moving forward.”

    Ben Kohles makes third straight birdie on No. 6 at THE CJ CUP

    It has been a circuitous career for Kohles, who lived in Dallas until age 10 – he’s a fan of the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers – before moving with his family to North Carolina. He didn’t begin playing golf until age 15 but was a quick study, playing collegiately at the University of Virginia and beginning his pro career with back-to-back Korn Ferry Tour victories in 2012 – the only player to date to accomplish this feat.

    Kohles has mostly bounced between the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour since then, but the past year has seen a dramatic uptick – he was named 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year in a season that included two victories, then finished fifth at The RSM Classic last fall and sixth at this year’s Puerto Rico Open, his two best TOUR finishes to date.

    Things coalesced this week at THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson, where he made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the front nine Sunday to storm into the lead, then drained a 20-foot birdie on the par-3 17th hole to take a one-stroke lead to the par-5 18th, which played as Sunday’s easiest hole (4.167) and had yet to yield a bogey on the day.

    After a decent drive into the left rough, Kohles played a fade from 264 yards that landed in an area of rough between two front-right greenside bunkers. With Pendrith facing a 41-foot eagle try, it appeared that an up-and-down birdie would be enough for the win – with the likely worst case being par for a playoff. Sadly for Kohles, the nightmare scenario unfolded. His third shot came heavy off the clubface, and he needed to dig his feet into the bunker to achieve balance for his fourth (the ball remained in the rough, well above his feet). His fourth shot came out softly with perfect touch but kicked sharply left, settling 5 feet from the hole. The par putt burned the edge, and Pendrith converted from 3 feet for the win.

    “Just didn't hit a great shot,” Kohles said. “Just needed a little bit more umph on it. I kind of maybe deceled a little bit, but you live and you learn.”

    Despite the heartbreaking finish, there are multiple silver linings: not only does Kohles qualify for the Wells Fargo, but he moves from No. 154 to No. 67 on the FedExCup standings, with the top 70 after the Wyndham Championship qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs. Rather than a distant possibility, a FedExCup Playoffs berth is in his hands now.

    Next time he’s in this position on a Sunday afternoon, he’ll have ample learnings to draw from – and perhaps most importantly, he proved that he can get here.

    “I felt awesome out there, even on 18,” Kohles said. “Of course feeling the nerves on the back nine, but that's why we play. Keep reminding myself this is what I want to do and why I want to be here.

    “Did so many good things this week, and I'm just going to keep reminding myself of that and try to get myself back in this position.”

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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