Garnett wins Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship
March 25, 2018
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Brice Garnett picked up his first TOUR win at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – Obstacles are opportunities.
That was the turn-of-phrase Brice Garnett – who finished the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship the same way he started, at the top of the leaderboard – was living by this week.
The 34-year-old became the first wire-to-wire winner on the PGA TOUR in 2017-18 – and the first since Marc Leishman captured the BMW Championship – after shooting a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday and finishing at 18-under par for the tournament.
The weather made for a struggle, but Garnett said he turned to his caddie as they were finishing and said they managed to stay strong throughout the final round.
“It was a big mental grind,” he said. “Some of those shots coming in with the wind straight in your face, raining… we were just trying to leave the golf ball in the right spot and we were able to that.”
He won by four shots over Keith Mitchell, en route to becoming the fifth first-time winner on TOUR this season.
It was the first PGA TOUR victory for Garnett, who won twice on the Web.com Tour a year ago en route to finishing first in the Regular Season money list.
“I knew today was such a huge opportunity in my golfing career,” he said.
Garnett’s girlfriend, Suzanne, was with him when he won the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz in 2017, and she was with him again this week in Puntacana.
With tears in his eyes, he said he couldn’t have done it without her.
“It’s been fun to have her out,” he said. “She’s such a rock in my golfing career and my life.”
Although he played this tournament last year when it was part of the Web.com Tour schedule, he admitted he had played the golf course all wrong. And the changed mindset paid off big time this week.
He also received a text last night from a fellow TOUR pro telling him that he was the only guy in the field this week to have won twice last year.
“So go get another one,” the text said.
He got off to a great start, going 3-under for his first four holes. He said he wanted to stockpile a few birdies given the weather, and the cushion would be nice as he went through the tough back-nine stretch.
“I was off and running,” he said. “Once I looked at the board I was five or six ahead, so I knew smart golf was going to take care of things.”
With the win, Garnett earns 300 FedExCup points – moving to 35th on the FedExCup standings – and will be exempt until the 2019-20 season. He also earns a spot into THE PLAYERS Championship plus the PGA Championship in August.
He said getting the opportunity to play in those events was exciting, but he’s not ready to stop relishing in this victory quite yet.
“We’re going to enjoy this one a lot,” he said. “But we’re back to it next week and we’ll see what happens.”
Mitchell earns best-ever TOUR finish
Keith Mitchell has seen the Brice Garnett show before, after being paired with him during the final round of the 2017 WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz, that Garnett would go on to win.
Mitchell admitted he knew Garnett wasn’t going to let up Sunday in Punta Cana, but because of the experience in Portland, instead of trying to force things, he just tried to do the exact same things he did during the first three rounds.
It worked, as Mitchell shot a 5-under-par 67 in tough conditions – including a clutch 20-foot birdie putt on the last, one of only three golfers to make a birdie on that hole, the toughest on the course – to move into solo second.
That result is his best-ever finish on the PGA TOUR.
“That putt on 18 was huge,” he said. “With the FedExCup race going so long and just trying to get in the top 125 and move your way up, solo second's huge.
Mitchell admitted Sunday was both a mental and physical grind, given the weather and what was at stake. He said he ended up getting really focused through a stretch and forgot to drink water for eight holes.
“I was messing with my caddie a little bit and said, ‘we gotta (sic) get back in shape, man,’” he said.
Mitchell said the opportunity to be close to the lead on the PGA TOUR is something he’s relished, and he’s learned from the experience. He had the last three weeks off, so this was a big confidence-builder moving forward.
“When you get close to the lead on the PGA TOUR… it's an experience, it's tough,” he said. “I'm not beating myself up for it, but I felt like today kind of showed me that I can do it.”
Despite a tough day weather-wise in Punta Cana, Kelly Kraft navigated Corales Golf Course without a bogey. His 5-under-par 67 moved him into solo third - his best finish on the PGA TOUR this season, and his second top-10 in his last three tournaments.
Kraft credited some extra work he did on his irons yesterday after his round and earlier Sunday as the key to his success in the final round. He said he knew it was going to be windy so that’s what prompted him to put in the extra work.
“You can kind of hit it anywhere off the tee here, which isn't really my style of golf course. It's a second-shot course,” he said. “So I dialed in the irons a little better today and just hit a lot of shots close and got the ones up and down that I needed to.”
Kraft said his game is feeling good right now, heading into a key stretch of the season. He’s getting better in all areas, he said, and is trending in the right direction.
“It's just kind of low stress right now,” he said. “I know that doesn't last forever, but I'm looking forward to another week in Houston next week and see if we can get it going again.”
KJ Choi – Choi shot the round of the day on Sunday, a 6-under-par 66, and finished T5. It was Choi’s first top-10 finish since 2016.
Corey Conners - Despite his 4-over-par 76, Conners notched his best result on the PGA TOUR. He was T13 at the Puntcana Resort & Club Championship and played in the final group for his second tournament in a row.
Paul Dunne – Dunne notched his first ever top-10 finish on the PGA TOUR. He finished T5 after a 3-under-par 69 Sunday at Corales and will play next week at the Houston Open.
Denny McCarthy – McCarthy fired a 2-under-par 70 Sunday to move into 4th. That was his first top-10 finish on TOUR and his best result after earning status for the 2017-18 season via the Web.com Tour Finals in the fall.
Tyler McCumber – Played in the final group and tried to become the fourth Monday Qualifier to win on the PGA TOUR, and the first since 2010. Struggled Sunday, shooting a 3-over-par 75 to finish T19 in his TOUR debut.
QUOTABLESI thought this place was supposed to be paradise… it was not today.The ground's so soft out there you feel like you're walking on like a Tempur-Pedic mattress.
Longest Drive: 394 yards (An impressive feat from John Merrick, considering the weather on Sunday)
Most 1-putts: 14 (K.J. Choi, en route to the round of the day)
Fewest putts: 22 (Choi)