Novak birdies final hole to win LECOM Suncoast Classic
February 16, 2020
By Preston Smith, PGATOUR.COM
- February 16, 2020
- Novak fired a final-round 66 to win at Lakewood National. (Kevin Prise/PGATOUR.COM)
LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — Andrew Novak birdied each of his last two holes, including a 10-foot putt at the last, to win the LECOM Suncoast Classic on Sunday by one shot over John Chin. He finished at 23-under 265 at Lakewood National Golf Club in his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory.
“This has been what I’ve been working three years for since I turned pro, and even before then in college and all those hours,” the Wofford College product said. “It’s awesome to have an opportunity. I’ve still got more work to do—one win doesn’t lock it up (PGA TOUR card)—but this is obviously a great start.”
Novak, who closed with a final-round 66, emerged from a crowded field that saw six players on top of the leaderboard at some point throughout the day. The final drama came down to Novak and Chin, the latter of which briefly carried the solo advantage at 22-under after a birdie on the 16th hole.
But Novak tied things up after making a 50-foot putt from the fringe at the par-3 17th, then stuck his approach shot from 204 yards to 10 feet on the 72nd hole. He sunk the putt in front of a packed gallery to secure the win.
“I like playing in front of people. I like crowds, so this was perfect,” he said. “It had a stadium feel to it. I grew up playing other sports, and you see in all those sports where everyone is playing in front of crowds. I like making people cheer, so it was perfect for me. They all gave me a big ovation when I walked up to the green, and I was just tied, I hadn’t made the putt yet or anything. I definitely felt the love there.”
Chin finished solo-second after shooting a closing 64. He was one of two players to shoot 8-under Sunday, including Taylor Montgomery, who carded a third-place finish. Montgomery drained a 30-foot putt at the 17th to move into first at 22-under but bogeyed the final hole after hitting his second shot out of bounds. He eventually got up-and-down to save bogey.
Greyson Sigg also reached 22-under before bogeys on each of his final two holes dropped him into a tie for fourth alongside David Kocher and Monday qualifier Chandler Blanchet.
“That’s the thing, there are a lot of birdies out there,” Novak said. “If you made a bogey or a double you were falling fast. You had to be on every shot. Everybody was playing well. It was really bunched up.”
Chin parred each of his last two holes, which opened the door for Novak’s comeback, beginning with the long putt on No. 17.
“At that point my whole mindset was just trying to get in a playoff,” he said. “Eighteen isn’t an easy hole. I wasn’t really expecting birdie there, either. I was just trying to make a birdie somewhere. I knew with two holes left, it wasn’t really one you’re expecting to make, but I wanted to at least give it a run. It just lined up and went in.”
One more birdie on the 72nd hole erased any need for a playoff. Novak’s approach shot and subsequent putt sealed a victory, his first in 45 career Korn Ferry Tour starts.
“(I was) so locked in for the last 20 minutes,” he said. “I actually made it a bit of a point not to take too long (on the last putt) and not try to overlook it.”
Novak rose to No. 3 in The 25, trailing Davis Riley and Mito Pereira. Jared Wolfe (T56) and Chin round out the top five.
Novak’s victory continues a strong recent stretch for the 24-year-old, who finished tied for ninth last week at the Country Club de Bogotá Championship.
“I played here last year and played terrible, but I like the course,” said Novak, who finished 8-over at this tournament a year ago. “I felt good here, I just don’t think I managed my game well last year and I don’t think I was patient. I just felt better (this time). I had a great finish last week and just carried that momentum over. I knew everything was pretty close and wanted to put it all together.”