Clutch closing stretch propels Swafford to first TOUR win
January 22, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Hudson Swafford overcomes to win CareerBuilderIn the final round of the 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge, Hudson Swafford holds off a handful of players and shoots a final-round 67 to claim his first win on the PGA TOUR.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Notes and observations from Sunday’s final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford claimed his first PGA TOUR victory.
For more from La Quinta, check out the Daily Wrap-up.
SWAFFORD'S GOOD OMEN
Instead of being disappointed by his three-putt on Sunday’s first hole, Hudson Swafford saw the miscue as an omen.
Swafford remembered that he also three-putted the first hole of his lone Web.com Tour victory, a one-shot win at the 2012 Stadion Classic.
“And I was like, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but we’re going to be right in the mix on 18, and we’re going to have a chance to win and this is going to be a fun afternoon,” Swafford said.
It was, as Swafford shot 5-under 67 at PGA WEST’s Stadium Course to win his first PGA TOUR title. He finished at 20-under 268 (65-65-71-67) to beat Adam Hadwin, who shot 59 on Saturday, by one shot. Swafford, 29, jumped from 69th to 6th in the FedExCup standings.
He was tied for the lead after making birdies at Nos. 7-9, then pulled away with three more birdies in a row, at Nos. 15-17. Pete Dye, the Stadium Course’s architect, wrote in his autobiography that PGA West’s final holes may be the toughest closing holes he’s ever built. It’s a, “a hang-on-to-your-hat time when you turn back toward the clubhouse,” he wrote.
Swafford made the final four holes look easy, though. He hit an 8-iron to 11 feet at No. 15, the course’s second-hardest hole, then hit the 16th green in two shots with a 4-iron. Another 8-iron at the island-green 17th stopped within a couple feet of the hole.
The field averaged 15.98 strokes on the Stadium Course’s final four holes Sunday. He played them in 13 strokes.
Swafford made amends for a tough finish at those holes the previous day. He double-bogeyed the 16th after hitting his second shot into the deep bunker left of the green, then bogeyed 17 after nearly hitting his tee shot in the water.
“Today, I stepped up there and hit some really good shots on those two holes,” Swafford said. “I knew the bad stuff on those two holes was gone. I had already seen it, it had already happened and I just visualized really good shots.”
Swafford joins former Georgia teammates Chris Kirk, Harris English, Russell Henley and Brian Harman in the PGA TOUR winner’s circle. Swafford also is among the contingent of pros who call St. Simons Island, Georgia, home.
“(Hudson) acts like nothing bothers him, but I know watching all of his buddies win definitely bothered him,” said Harman, who finished third.
The win came in Swafford’s 93rd career PGA TOUR start. This was his fourth career top-10 and 19th consecutive cut made, a streak that dates back to last year’s PLAYERS Championship.
“If (not wining) doesn’t bother you, that all your friends have won around you, then you probably need to look for another job,” Swafford said. “It wasn’t holding me back or anything, but it creates a little fire. Playing with these guys day-in, day-out, it motivates you.”
WHEN WE WERE KIDS...
Swafford led the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee (+1.64 per round) and was fifth in driving distance (306.6 yards). The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Florida native is known as a big hitter. He reached two par-5s in two shots Sunday, two-putting both for birdie. Swafford’s prodigious display off the tee is the perfect opportunity to share Harman’s recollection from his first time meeting his future Georgia teammate.
They were playing a junior tournament at Okefenokee Country Club. Harman was 11 and Swafford was 10. The second hole is a dogleg left around a lake.
“The tee shot was over this elevated pond. He hits it and I’m like, ‘Oh my, where is this going?’ He flies the pond, and it’s perfect. He’s left with nothing into the green. And it hasn’t changed since then,” Harman said.
“He’s a big ol’ boy and he hits it a long way and he’s as good a guy as you would ever want to meet.”
CLOSE CALL FOR MR. 59
Hadwin didn’t get the victory one day after shooting 59. He made it close, though.
Hadwin made birdie on the par-5 16th, then holed a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th to pull within one shot of Swafford. Hadwin missed the green with his approach shot to 18, though, and had to hole an 11-foot par putt to remain in solo second. He finished at 19-under 269 (71-69-59-70) and moved to 10th in the FedExCup standings.
This was his best finish in 73 career PGA TOUR events. His previous best was a T4 at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open. He would’ve liked to convert Saturday’s 59 into victory, though.
“I was a little disappointed. I never quite felt comfortable on the tee box,” said Hadwin, who started the final round with a one-shot lead. This was the second consecutive year that he played in the CareerBuilder’s final group. He finished sixth last year.
LEFTY SHAKES OFF THE RUST
The CareerBuilder Challenge was Phil Mickelson’s first start since having two sports hernia surgeries late last year. He said he was pleased with his game after tying for 22nd. He shot 68-66 in the first two rounds before closing with 1-under 143 (70-73) over the final two rounds at PGA WEST’s Stadium Course.
“I’m much further along than I thought I would be,” said Mickelson, who hit 55 percent of his fairways and 58 percent of his greens this week. “I knew my game wasn’t sharp, I didn’t feel like I was ready to win, but now I feel like my game’s come a long way in the last week.”
Mickelson didn’t play his first post-surgery round until last Saturday and was unsure until Tuesday that he’d compete this week. This is his first year serving as an ambassador for this event, which he has won twice (2002, ’04).
Mickelson said he is scheduled to play the next four events: the Farmers Insurance Open, Waste Management Phoenix Open, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Genesis Open. He is a past champion of all four events.
IT'S IN THE HOLE!
Chad Campbell has won four times on the PGA TOUR, but it’s been nine years since his last victory. Another win looked like a possibility after Campbell holed out from 108 yards for eagle at the par-5 sixth. The shot gave him a three-shot lead, but he gave it all back at the next hole. Campbell hit his tee shot at the 223-yard, par-3 sixth hole in the water and made triple-bogey.
He was still tied for the lead with nine holes remaining, but shot 37 on the back nine and finished sixth. His back nine also featured a hole-out on a par-5 and a tee shot into the water at the following hole. He chipped in for birdie at No. 16, but hit his tee shot at the island-green 17th into the water.
Campbell wasn’t the only contender to hole out on a par-5. Bud Cauley holed a 103-yard wedge shot at the par-5 11th hole to tie the lead. He finished third, his best finish on TOUR since the 2012 Wyndham Championship. He’s now 50th in the FedExCup standings.
Brian Harman also tied for third. He jumped 40 spots in the FedExCup to No. 27.
PGA TOUR rookie Dominic Bozzelli made birdie on the final two holes, including a 36-footer at 18, to finish alone in fifth place. He shot 71 on Sunday.
It was his first top-25 of the season and ended a streak of three consecutive cuts. The finish vaulted the Auburn alum 99 spots in the FedExCup standings to No. 65. It was the third-largest leap in the FedExCup standings this week. Cauley jumped from 191st to 50th after finishing T3. Scott Stallings, who’d earned just three FedExCup points in five starts, jumped 118 spots to No. 93 after finishing eighth this week. Stallings’ 66 was Sunday’s second-lowest round.
ODDS & ENDS
Brendan Steele, who grew up attending the CareerBuilder Challenge and went to college at nearby UC Riverside, finished sixth, four shots behind Swafford. Steele won the season-opening Safeway Open and, at No. 4 in the FedExCup, was the highest-ranked player in this week’s field. His sixth-place finish was his third top-10 in five starts this season. … Local pro Chris Evans, who works in the bag room at nearby Plantation Golf Club, made the most of his sponsor exemption into the CareerBuilder Challenge. He made the cut and finished 66th to earn #. That money will come in handy as Evans embarks on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica this season. … Patrick Reed, the 2014 CareerBuilder champion, shot Sunday’s low round, a 7-under 65, to finish T12.
CALL OF THE DAY
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Hudson Swafford takes dead aim for the Shot of the Day