Armour wins first PGA TOUR title in style
October 29, 2017
By Rusty Hampton, Special to PGATOUR.COM
JACKSON, Miss. – Move over youngsters, there’s still room at the top for the old guys.
On the same weekend 37-year-old Justin Rose won the WGC-HSBC Champions, 41-year-old Ryan Armour polished off a sensational week of golf on Sunday at the Country Club of Jackson, shooting 4-under 68 to run away with the Sanderson Farms Championship.
For more of what unfolded in Jackson, click here for the Daily Wrap-up.
Armour’s fourth-straight round in the 60s was good for a five-shot victory over Chesson Hadley, and his first PGA TOUR title, in his 105th TOUR event. He won $774,000, and 300 FedExCup points.
He is the fifth first-time champion in the last seven years for this event, but unlike the last three winners here, Armour is far from a fresh-faced 20-something. Instead, he’s a journeyman who joined the TOUR 10 years ago and has split his time between the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour, going four years (2011-14) without making one PGA TOUR start.
At some point, he said, he realized he needed to quit trying to stay with the young, big hitters, and stick to what he does best, a somewhat boring but awfully effective game of fairways and greens, fairways and greens.
He did it remarkably well on Sunday, hitting 15 of 18 greens and 10 of 14 fairways. After a windy, bone-chilling third round on Saturday, the weather was a bit warmer on Sunday – and Armour stayed hot.
For the week, he ranked third in driving accuracy, first in proximity to the hole on approach shots, second in strokes gained putting – and next-to-last in driving distance.
He also led the field with 28 birdies for the week, including six on Sunday. And even when he did experience a hiccup with a three-putt bogey on No. 16, he followed that with a 45-foot birdie bomb on No. 17.
It was a remarkable display of cool, calm and collected for a guy who showed very little emotion all week.
Armour started with a five-shot lead and was never really challenged, even when local favorite Jonathan Randolph shot 29 on the front and shot up the leaderboard, at one point getting within three strokes of Armour.
“What he did today was phenomenal,” said Scott Strohmeyer, who was in the final group with Armour. “Coming out of the gates, knowing he was probably nervous, every shot was just where he wanted it, and then he made some putts. His putter was hot this week.”
Armour said it probably wasn’t his best putting week, but “the combination, the fairways, the greens, the putts – that was the best it’s ever been.”
The win, said Armour, is “a big monkey off my back, I’m not going to lie. There’s a lot of emotions running through my head right now. … It’s great. It’s job security, which I’ve never really had out here. It’s vindication, I guess. That wouldn’t be a good word. Validation is a better word, that you don’t have to hit it 330 in the air to win golf tournament. I hit a lot of fairways. I hit a lot of greens. I made a lot of putts.”
Strohmeyer, who shot 71 and finished T4 in his first PGA TOUR event, led the tournament in average driving distance at 314 yards, some 50 yards farther than Armour. There were times Sunday when the two didn’t seem to be in the same zip code while hitting their second shots.
Asked how he ignores the longer hitters and sticks with his game plan, Armour said: “First, you giggle. It’s pretty funny how far Scott hit it today. He’s the longest guy I’ve ever seen, without a doubt. But somehow you have to believe in something out here, which is I don’t hit it 330.
“The fact is, I hit fairways and greens, and somehow that works.”
Going back to the Wyndham Championship in August, when he finished T4, Armour has made 63 birdies and been 41 under par in his last 10 rounds.
He said his coach gave him a new five-year plan in April.
“Maybe I’m getting there a little quicker,” he said, smiling. “I made some tweaks this summer, and right before Greensboro I made some equipment changes that have paid off.”
ON FIRE: Randolph, who grew up in the Jackson area, played at Ole Miss and calls Country Club of Jackson his home course, poured in seven birdie putts on the front nine to go from T9 to alone in second place at 14 under when he made the turn. The fun stopped on No. 10, with a bogey, and he played the back in 2-over 38, good for the second-best round of the day, 67. He finished T3, far better than his previous best TOUR finish of T8.
“I never got nervous,” Randolph said. “I wasn’t shocked about that, but it was really relieving to feel like I belong out here. … To not execute on the back nine stings a bit, but there will be more years.”
VIVA LAS VEGAS: Strohmeyer’s 71 included five birdies and two costly double-bogeys. Still, his T4 was a fantastic finish when you consider this: It was his first PGA TOUR event, and he earned his spot in the tournament by holing out a bunker shot on the third playoff hole in the Monday qualifier – after having to go through the Thursday pre-qualifier.
He has no playing status on the PGA TOUR or Web.com Tour, but the top-10 finish earned him a spot in next week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
“I’m just excited to have another tournament to play in,” said Strohmeyer. “After missing at the First Stage [of Q-School], I didn’t know if I was going to play again this year.”
Asked what the last 10 days have been like, he said: “If I got in, it was like, ‘I know I can do this,’ but then to actually do it, to play in the final group, and (finish) in the top 10, it’s truly a dream come true.”
BIG MARGIN: Armour’s five-shot win marked the largest margin of victory for this tournament since Frank Connor beat Brian Mogg by that amount in 1988.
MOVING UP: Hadley’s second-place finish following a T3 at the Safeway Open moved him from No. 24 to No. 6 in the FedExCup.
“We used to call those Randolph runs, and I got on one today. My college coach used to tell me, you better keep making birdies when you can, because eventually it’s going to stop.” – Jonathan Randolph, on his front-nine seven-birdie binge
“I think the love of competition, which is what drives most of us. I have loved to compete since I was a kid. Plus, I don't know what else I would do.” – Ryan Armour, on what has kept him motivated during some of his lean years as a pro.
Low Round: Ricky Barnes fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 to move from T43 to T10.
Longest Drive: Scott Strohmeyer hit it 374 yards on the par-5 14th.
Longest Putt: 46 feet, 8 inches, by Steve Wheatcroft.
Toughest Hole: The par-4 16th hole played to an average of 4.507, yielding just four birdies. There were 25 bogeys, seven doubles, and one triple made there on Sunday.
Easiest Hole: The par-5 11th played to an average of 4.64. There were two eagles made there, plus 31 birdies and 34 pars.
CALL OF THE DAY
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Ryan Armour's lights out birdie is the Shot of the Day
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
"I'm tearing up...I'm not gonna lie." pic.twitter.com/RKryynL7wm— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 29, 2017
105 starts.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 29, 2017
Countless ups and downs.
The 41-year-old has finally joined the winners circle. pic.twitter.com/Zs7DaLMKWY