Monday Finish: Duncan breaks through for first win at The RSM Classic
November 25, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Tyler Duncan earns first PGA TOUR win at The RSM Classic
Tyler Duncan wasn’t on many short lists to win The RSM Classic. He had three top-10s in his previous 67 starts on the PGA TOUR, with a best finish of T5, twice (2019 AT&T Byron Nelson, 2017 Safeway Open). He was ranked 378th in the world, and was no guarantee to even have his TOUR card until a T4 in his last start of last season gave him a 25th-place finish on the Korn Ferry Tour priority ranking. And yet one day after making 18 pars, he closed with a 65 on Sunday to tie Webb Simpson, the pre-tournament favorite, whom he defeated with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff. Just a few months removed from job insecurity, Duncan will go into the 2020 calendar year at 11th in the FedExCup. Not a bad early Christmas present.
Welcome to the Monday Finish.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
1. Duncan limited the damage on his off day. Much was made of his second-round 61, the lowest anyone went all tournament, but every shot counts. And when he wasn’t nearly as hot the next day, Duncan at least managed to be a paragon of consistency with 18 straight pars. That set him up for Sunday, when he bounced back from an opening bogey – his only bogey all week – to shoot 65 and get into the playoff. For more on Duncan’s big day, click here.
2. He finished strong. It wasn’t just that Duncan birdied three of his last four holes of regulation to force the playoff. Consider this: He birdied the tough 18th hole twice in the three times he played it Sunday, once in regulation and once in the playoff. Total final-round birdies by the rest of the field on the hole: five. Zach Guthrie, Duncan’s caddie, calls it mental toughness. Yep.
3. He kept it simple. Duncan hit 50 of 56 fairways for the week to finish sixth in Driving Accuracy, and tied for fourth in Greens in Regulation (60/72). With the pressure turned all the way up in cool, breezy conditions on Sunday, he missed just one fairway and two greens. What’s more, he finished first in average proximity to the hole at 25 feet, 3 inches.
Muñoz was a revelation this fall. Amid so much excitement over the first 11 tournaments of the 2019-20 season, it would be easy to overlook Colombia’s Sebastián Muñoz, but that would be a mistake. The winner of the Sanderson Farms Championship is long off the tee and just now figuring out how good he can be, a recipe that could prove dangerous in 2020. He also played in short sleeves, explaining, “I’d rather play good than be warm.” Going for his second victory of the fall, he came up just a shot short of the playoff after a final-round 68. Now he’ll recharge the batteries before starting up again at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, a course that has been good to long hitters. “Yeah, major time off,” said Muñoz, second in the FedExCup. “Going to Bogota, seeing the family, friends and just relax for, I don’t know, three, four weeks and then start practicing like 10 days before a tournament.”
Todd ran out of gas. Brendon Todd took a two-shot lead into the final round and was bidding to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to win three straight tournaments on TOUR. Then it all caught up to him. Suddenly absent his legs and/or timing, Todd blocked his approach shot right and into the marsh at the fifth hole, leading to a double bogey, and lost a handful of other iron shots to the right, as well. “I couldn’t find it,” he said of the form that propelled him to victories at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and Bermuda Championship. Still, a solo fourth is the kind of result he would have happily taken during a three-year slump that saw him plummet off the TOUR. Oh, and he’ll take the FedExCup lead into the 2020 calendar year.
Simpson is at home at Sea Island. He’d already lost in a playoff at The RSM Classic, to Ben Crane in 2011, and was third last year. “I know, another close call,” Simpson said after shooting a final-round 67 but failing to birdie either of the two playoff holes. He has not won since the 2018 PLAYERS, but is close. In his only other start of the fall, he finished seventh at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. And he made three clutch putts to get in the playoff at The RSM Classic, one for birdie (from 25 feet) and two knee-knockers for par. “I'm very pleased with the way I played,” he said. “Obviously, I would like the drive back in the playoff to give myself a birdie chance, but hats off to Tyler birdieing the last two in regulation and again there in the playoff. Tough way to finish, but I gave it everything I had.”
“You never know. This is a crazy game.” – Tyler Duncan on winning just a few months after barely regaining his PGA TOUR card at Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
“My game is continuing to build and go in the right direction.” – U.S. Presidents Cup Team member Webb Simpson, after his fourth runner-up in his last 10 starts.
“I didn’t feel I was in the zone.” – Brendon Todd (72, solo 4th), who saw his streak of two straight wins and 12 straight rounds of 68 or better come to an end.