Bryan finishes strong, cards first TOUR victory
April 16, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Wesley Bryan's breakout win at RBC HeritageIn the final round of the 2017 RBC Heritage, South Carolina native Wesley Bryan strung together a strong push early to move ahead and claim his first career PGA TOUR win.
HILTON HEAD, SC. – News and notes from Sunday’s final round of the RBC Heritage where Wesley Bryan completed the journey from former trick shot artist to PGA TOUR winner.
Bryan fired an impressive 4-under 67 on Sunday to finish 13-under par for the week, securing the first plaid jacket for the proud state of South Carolina with a one shot win.
Incredibly England’s Luke Donald picked up his fifth runner up finish at Hilton Head, and seventh top three finish, in the last nine years.
Patrick Cantlay, Ollie Schniederjans and William McGirt shared third place, two off the pace.
For more of what unfolded at Harbour Town, click here for the Daily Wrap Up.
BRYAN BREAKS SOUTH CAROLINA CURSE
It took 49 years but a native South Carolinian is finally wearing the plaid jacket.
Wesley Bryan wasn’t even the leading gamecock heading into Sunday’s final round at Harbour Town Golf Links, (Kevin Kisner started two shots back, Bryan was four off the pace) but the PGA TOUR rookie smashed a long held drought at the RBC Heritage.
Never had a native golfer won the event first claimed by Arnold Palmer in 1969 from a state proudly boasting the likes of FedExCup leader and world No.1 Dustin Johnson and former U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover.
In recent times Tommy Gainey, Ben Martin and Kisner all had legitimate chances to break the curse but ultimately it was Bryan who will go down in history.
“This is as good as it gets,” he said.
“It's one that I grew up dreaming on the practice green late at night when I was a kid, like this putt's to win the Heritage. And to get it done here is one of the coolest experiences ever.”
The win sends the rookie to 14th in the FedExCup and has him in sight of a place at the TOUR Championship.
Just a few years ago Bryan was scraping his way around on the mini tours and was known more for his trick shots than his game.
Three wins on the Web.com Tour last year catapulted him to the PGA TOUR and after three earlier top-10s this season he garnered the belief he could find his way to a big-time trophy.
His composure under pressure was a sight to see, although the 27-year-old admitted the nerves hit him late Sunday.
“No. 17, I got up, and I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. And I was like, shoot, I guess this is what nervous feels like,” he said.
“I was super nervous, but I didn't really know it. It's not like I had my hands shaking or I was like getting ahead in my thought process. I just went purple a bit and, yeah, a bit more than a burp came up.
“But coming down the stretch the last four holes I didn't really miss a shot. And it's really satisfying to know that under the gun I was able to perform.”
Read the fascinating story of how Wesley, and his brother George, made the long journey to the PGA TOUR here.
Wesley Bryan interview after winning the RBC Heritage
DONALD DOES IT AGAIN
Luke Donald has made finishing second at Harbour Town an art form.
On Sunday his short game was a Rembrandt while his game off the tee was more finger painting.
Donald, quite bluntly, produced one of the more stellar short game performances in recent memory just to have a chance down the stretch.
Ranked 70th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and hitting just 31 of 56 fairways Donald put his game under considerable pressure.
But he was able to scramble an incredible 26 of 31 times for the week and left him needing just one more birdie over the last four holes to perhaps force a playoff.
When he couldn’t coax in a 35-footer on the last he had notched up his fifth runner up finish at the RBC Heritage, and seventh top 3 finish over the last nine years.
“I’ll just keep trying. Obviously it's a place I feel comfortable and I like and I've had a lot of success. I've got to just keep pounding away. And hopefully I'll get there,” Donald said of another missed chance.
“I’m proud of a lot of grit and determination. And never giving up. And I always pride myself on that, even when I'm not feeling that comfortable off the tee. To get it through 72 holes and have a chance to win just shows that I'm close.”
Donald is the sixth player to finish runner-up in an event five times since 1934 (official PGA TOUR events).
Only two players have more runner-up finishes in an event during that span: Jack Nicklaus (7, RBC Canadian Open) and Phil Mickelson (6, U.S. Open).
Payne Stewart (5, The Honda Classic), Jack Nicklaus (5, Ford Championship at Doral), and Greg Norman (5, BMW Championship) also have five runner-up finishes in the same event.
POULTER’S PUTTER RUNS COLD
Ian Poulter’s putter picked the wrong day to go cold as the Englishman missed a golden opportunity to satisfy the terms of his major medical exemption.
Starting the final round in fifth place and knowing he needed $144,669 to ensure full status for the remainder of the season Poulter was just a decent round away from getting the job done.
But the two-time PGA TOUR winner could only muster a 2-over 73 on Sunday, dropping back into an 11-way tie for 11th – leaving him $30,624 short of his goal with just one start left.
He needed 32 putts in the final round and finished the week ranked 68th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
“I'm a little hot under the collar right now. That today could have been a victory and I let it slip,” Poulter said.
“Three-putts from 25 feet are unacceptable. I had two three-putts. I had chances on the two par-5s from eight feet, didn't convert those. That's four shots.
“I could have got it done today and I should have got it done today. I pride myself on being a good putter. But the flat stick didn't do what I needed to do. I didn't close out any of the putts that I expected to close out.”
Poulter is in the field for next week’s Valero Texas Open where he will need to likely finish in the top 35 to secure his full status going forward. He has already sewn up conditional status and now sits 124th in the FedExCup.
OLLIE PROVES HIS PLAYOFF WORTH
Before Wesley Bryan made his move it was another PGA TOUR rookie who looked set to claim a maiden win at Hilton Head.
Ollie Schniederjans surged out the of the starting blocks on Sunday, going out in a 5-under 31 to take the lead at the turn.
But two back nine bogeys saw the Georgia Tech graduate slip away from the top.
“It was an extremely solid front nine and everything you could ask for to start Sunday when you're five back and get right there in the mix,” he said.
“And then the back was close. I just didn't make the putts, really. I was close, I hit a lot of good ones. It's a fine line.”
It was still good enough for a career high finish at T3, his fourth top-10 result in this rookie season, and sent him to 38th spot on the FedExCup list with 473 points, a move not lost on the 23-year-old.
“That's what I want to do here as much as I can is have a chance with nine holes left on Sunday, and just keep doing that,” he added.
“I feel really patient right now. This is a good thing here, top-3 finish, and locked up the FedExCup Playoffs, which makes it a great week.”
It took 454 points to make the Playoffs last season.
CALL OF THE DAY
TOUGH TIMES FOR FINAL GROUPS
Despite conditions appearing ideal throughout the day the biggest surprise at Harbour Town was the struggles felt by five of the last six players out on Sunday, two of whom are major winners.
Wesley Bryan came from the third last group to win the tournament but his playing partner Ian Poulter was 2-over on the day.
Behind them Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson both carded 3-over 74s and in the final group Graham DeLeat shot 73 and overnight leader Jason Dufner struggled big time on the way to a 5-over 76.
DeLaet was chasing his first PGA TOUR win in his 160th start but a triple bogey on the eighth hole proved costly.
“I think I did exactly what I set out to do today and that was stay calm and stay in the moment and I did that,” he said.
“It was the execution that wasn't there. But emotionally and everything I think I did a pretty good job.
“This is a small bump in the road. But I've played well, and I'm happy about it.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Patrick Cantlay has certainly taken advantage of his limited starts this season. Cantlay shot 70-66-70-67 at Harbour Town to finish in a tie for third, his second top-3 finish in just four starts this year. Cantlay was runner-up at the Valspar Championship and made cuts at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Shell Houston Open. “I feel like I'm playing really well. I feel like my game is good, my prep is good. My system for getting ready for tournaments is coming around. Goals going forward, I'd like to play really well, obviously start winning some tournaments and giving myself a chance to maybe make that Presidents Cup team.”
Peter Malnati made the second hole-in-one of his PGA TOUR career with a 7-iron from 180 yards at the par-3 17th at Harbour Town. Malnati’s hole-in-one is the 17th on TOUR this season. It came during a tough round as he was 6-over on the day at the time.
Matt Kuchar, the 2014 champion, closed with a 7-under 64 to rocket up 52 places. Branden Grace completed his title defense with a 68 to join Kuchar in a tie for 11th.
Rookie J.J. Spaun posted one of just two bogey-free rounds of the day in the final round to secure his third top-10 of the season with a T6. Spaun will move up from No. 65 to No. 48 in the FedExCup standings.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Peter Malnati's spectacular hole-in-one at RBC Heritage
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Wes is a winner! 😁🏆 pic.twitter.com/qfMgsLy8Lk— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 16, 2017