Kizzire tames windy El Camaleon for maiden victory at OHL Classic at Mayakoba
November 12, 2017
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Patton Kizzire breaks through for his first win at OHL Classic
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Patton Kizzire began the most important 36 holes of his life by hitting a tree. Hard.
It was just past 7:30 a.m., and at the par-4 first, from the scraggy, rocky area left of the cart path, he blistered his second shot only to watch his ball smack the trunk of a fig tree. The ball could have gone anywhere; it shot back and right, into the fairway.
From there, Kizzire hit a utility metal short of the green and got up-and-down for a heart-stopping bogey.
“Yeah, I was hoping everybody forgot about that,” Kizzire, 31, said with a sheepish smile. “That was a wild start. To have a 12-footer for bogey on my first hole trying to win a golf tournament, you know, that's a challenging start. To make that putt and kind of calm down and find my stride and start making birdies and get out front, you know, that felt really good.”
Maxie Patton Kizzire, who was born in Montgomerie, Alabama, but lives with his wife, Kari, in Sea Island, Georgia, became the newest first-time winner on the PGA TOUR with rounds of 66-67 on a marathon Sunday. He also held off a persistent Rickie Fowler, the highest ranked player in the field, who matched him almost shot for shot(67-67) over the last two rounds.
Thunderstorms played havoc starting Friday, pushing the second round to Saturday and the third and fourth to Sunday, which was muggy but, thankfully, not rainy. The 6-foot-5 Kizzire, who opened the tournament with a 9-under 62, weathered it all largely by putting as well as he ever has on TOUR, according to his longtime caddie, Joe Etter.
“To shoot 19 under with all this wind? I mean, I know it’s soft, but that’s still kind of hitting on all phases,” Etter said. “He can do it.”
Fowler birdied the 16th and 17th holes to close within one, but couldn’t make it three in a row on 18 and Kizzire two-putted for par to bring on the mariachi players.
“He earned it out there,” Fowler said. “He played well all day today, 36 holes. Putted really well and made a lot of good putts for birdie and to save some pars, and I know he was thanking his putter there on the 18th green.”
Kizzire came to El Camaleon on the heels of a T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and a T10 at the Sanderson Farms Championship. “The thing that led to this is he made the cut on the number at Sanderson Farms,” Etter said. “He had a nice weekend and a top 10, and realized you just gotta free it up and let it go. And it’s just been snowballing since.”
Now the player who finished 99th in last season’s FedExCup Playoffs, who has never made it to the TOUR Championship, is leading the FedExCup standings and headed for the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Masters, among other elite tournaments.
“I'm kind of a never-give-up guy,” said Kizzire, who got up and down four times in four chances in the final round. “I've really tried to stay the course and believe in myself. It seemed a long way at the point when I was on the Hooters Tour, but now it's just part of the whole process.”
FOWLER NOT DISCOURAGED. The runner-up hadn’t played a competitive round since the Presidents Cup, a stretch of five weeks. He hadn’t even played back-to-back rounds of any kind except once, the week before the OHL Classic. And yet there he was making six birdies in the final round, suggesting he hasn’t lost a step since notching 10 top-10 finishes last season. “Great start to the season,” Fowler said. His only downfall: a messy bogey 6 at the fifth hole, where he twice hit into the lateral water hazard left of the fairway, and his putter inexplicably going dormant for the middle six holes (7-12). “Hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in,” Fowler said. “Felt like I could have had a couple go there before the turn.”
PILLER HEATS UP WITH PUTTER. Martin Piller (65, T4) took just 22 putts in the final round Sunday and totaled 97 for the four rounds. That was a whopping eight fewer than the next best, Fowler and Russell Knox, who totaled 105. Piller’s secret? He played just three practice holes on Tuesday, and none Wednesday. All he did was camp out on the practice green. “I hadn’t been putting the way I normally do,” said Piller, who will turn 32 on Tuesday. “So I just camped out on the putting green. I’m an okay ball-striker, but if my putting is good, I’ll be in good shape. I made a bunch from the fringes this week. Seemed like I made a ton, and those don’t count as putts.”
HOWELL RESURGENCE CONTINUES. Charles Howell III was out of action for 10 weeks last season as he recuperated from a rib injury, but in his first start back he lost a playoff to Kyle Stanley at The National at TPC Potomac at Avenel. Now he’s at it again. With third and fourth rounds of 66-66, Howell, who played 30 holes Sunday, finished T4 at El Camaleon. The result marked his 85th career top-10 finish in 501 starts. His last victory: the 2007 Genesis Open at Riviera. “I hope I am,” Howell said, when asked if he’s knocking on the door for his long-awaited third win. “These kids coming out are so good; they’re better than we were when we came out, and they’re ready to win sooner. But it’s great motivation to me, and, I think, to my generation to practice and find ways to improve. In another way, it’s a challenge because of the scores these guys shoot every week. I’d love to screw up and win a golf tournament sometime.”
SI WOO KIM – The youngest winner of THE PLAYERS Championship last season, Kim shot a final-round 65 to finish solo third, his best result since hoisting the trophy at TPC Sawgrass.
ABRAHAM ANCER – Born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico until he was 14, Ancer, who has dual citizenship, shot a final-round 68 to finish T9, best of the five Mexicans in the field. Four made the cut, the most ever for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
EMILIANO GRILLO – A member of the recent Presidents Cup International Team, Grillo shot a final-round 67 to tie for 9th, his best finish since a T7 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard last March.
JOHN ODA – The UNLV All-American shot a final-round 70 to finish eighth in his first TOUR start as a pro, a top-10 finish that gets him into the RSM Classic at Sea Island. Oda will play in the final stage of Web.com Tour Q school in Chandler, Arizona, Dec. 7-10.
“Less-than-ideal start to a 36-hole day.” – Martin Piller on his triple-bogey 7 on the first hole early Sunday morning. He recovered to shoot 71-65 and tie for fourth.
“To be No. 1 on the FedExCup list, that’s huge.” – Patton Kizzire, who has never made it to the TOUR Championship but is off to his best start ever.
Low final round: Zach Johnson shot a final-round 64 to finish T23.
Low round for the week: Kizzire’s opening-round 62 was lowest by two strokes.
Longest drives: Gary Woodland led the field on two measured drives, averaging 305 yards.
Fewest putts: Martin Piller took just 22 putts in the final round, two fewer than Si Woo Kim, Shawn Stefani and Camilo Villegas.
Easiest hole: The 532-yard, par-5 13th played to a 4.423 stroke average in the final round.
Hardest hole: The 438-yard, par-4 1st hole played to a 4.321 average.
Patton Kizzire interview after winning OHL Classic at Mayakoba