Kodaira tops Kim in wild RBC Heritage playoff
April 15, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Satoshi Kodaira's birdie putt from off the green at RBC Heritage
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Satoshi Kodaira had just added to his wardrobe and verbally accepted PGA TOUR membership when he was asked a question few thought he would have to answer.
How did he like his new plaid jacket?
Kodaira looked down at the traditional winner’s coat, then out at his audience. “I will probably not wear it regularly,” he said through an interpreter, sending a burst of laughter through the winner’s press conference. “But this is special.”
Japan’s Kodaira, 28, overcame strong winds and Si Woo Kim of Korea for his first TOUR win at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town. After coming from six shots back at the start of the day, the winner rolled in a birdie putt of 24 feet, 6 inches at the par-3 17th hole, the third hole of a sudden-death playoff, and watched as Kim failed to match him with a long birdie attempt of his own.
“I wasn’t really thinking about winning,” Kodaira said of his thoughts early Sunday, when he teed off almost an hour before the final threesome of Kim, Ian Poulter and Luke List.
List, who lost a playoff to Justin Thomas in The Honda Classic, had a chance to join the playoff but missed a birdie putt from just outside 10 feet on the last hole of regulation. He and 36-hole leader Bryson DeChambeau (66) tied for third at 11-under.
Kim, who will defend his title at THE PLAYERS Championship next month, had a chance to end the tournament in regulation after knocking his approach shot 6 feet, 4 inches from the pin on the 72nd hole, but his birdie effort grazed the lip and stayed out.
“I tried my best,” he said, “and the putts didn’t drop. It is what it is.”
When his last birdie try came up short, a tournament that featured a third-round flyover by a Singapore Airlines Boeing 787, and the most accomplished male pro from Korea, had been won by perhaps the second most famous player from Japan. (Hideki Matsuyama being the first.)
“I’ve not talked to Hideki,” Kodaira said. “But I’ve been watching him on TV, and it gives me confidence and inspiration to play on the PGA TOUR.”
Sunday was always going to be a battle of attrition. With stiff winds and thunderstorms in the forecast, tournament officials moved the starting times up to 7-9 a.m. and sent the field off split tees. Although there were some good scores, lowest among them a 65 by Harris English, the leaders were left to make a few early birdies and then hang on for dear life.
Third-round leader Poulter shot a back-nine 40. List bogeyed four of his last eight holes, with just one birdie at the par-5 15th to offset the damage. Kim, after seizing the lead with a 3-under 33 on the front nine, shot a 3-over 38 on the back.
The last five winners of the RBC Heritage had trailed by at least three shots after 54 holes. Kodaira, who came into Sunday six off the lead, stayed on the offensive throughout. After scorching Harbour Town with a tournament-best 63 in easier conditions Saturday, he began the final round with three straight birdies and finished with seven of them overall. Given the tougher conditions Sunday, he said his 5-under 66 was the more impressive of the two rounds.
The two playoff combatants made pars on the first two extra holes, both at the par-4 18th, the most tenuous moment being Kodaira’s clutch up-and-down for par from behind the green the second time through. He made a five-footer to stay alive before his winning birdie on 17.
“I wasn’t that nervous on the last putt,” he said, “compared to the first two putts on 18.”
After finishing T28 at the Masters the week before, the Japan Golf Tour member had earned a spot in next season’s Sentry Tournament of Champions (among other tournaments); and his best-ever result on TOUR; and had become the first player from Japan to win since Matsuyama captured the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“This is a stage I’ve been dreaming about,” Kodaira said. “And having this opportunity to play [the PGA TOUR] fulltime is a dream come true.”
LIST SUFFERS ANOTHER NEAR-MISS. By his own admission, Luke List didn’t have it in the final round. He hit just eight of 14 fairways, and 10 greens in regulation. Still, he gave himself a chance on 18, knocking his approach shot to just outside 10 feet before missing the putt that would have gotten him into the Kodaira/Kim playoff. List signed for a final-round 72. “I hit a good putt,” he said. “I just didn’t hit very many fairways. Honestly, that really put me behind the 8-ball. I wasn’t able to play as consistent as I did the first three days. It was unfortunate that the swing wasn’t there today, but I hung in there and had a great attitude, and I had a chance at the end there.” Better news still: There’s a lot of golf left to be played this season, and List is starting to believe his first TOUR win is coming soon. “Hopefully next week,” he said. “I’m getting better each opportunity, and I feel like my game has risen to the point where I expect to contend every week. So it’s going to happen.”
D.J. SOLID IN RBC RETURN. Dustin Johnson hadn’t played Harbour Town since missing back-to-back cuts here in 2008 and 2009, but as he said before the tournament, that was long ago. He wasn’t the No. 1 player in the world, hadn’t won a major. Proving he is a different, more complete player, Johnson battled a balky putter to not only make the cut this time, he shot a final-round 67 to finish 7-under (T16). “I like the golf course,” he said. “I really do. It actually sets up really well for me.” He had just two caveats: He wasn’t crazy about the short par-4 ninth hole or the dogleg-left par-4 11th, which he played in a cumulative 5-over for the week. After his round Sunday, Johnson was set to begin a three-week break, and was bound for the Bahamas. He knows what to work on upon his return: putting. After struggling on the greens at the Masters (T10), Johnson averaged 29 putts per round at Harbour Town, where he said he had trouble reading the breaks. “I’ve got a few weeks to work on it,” he said. “I’ll be ready for THE PLAYERS.”
REDMAN TO TURN PRO AFTER NCAAs. One week after he missed the cut at the Masters, Clemson sophomore and reigning U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman shot 72 to finish 1-under. He said he will turn professional before his next PGA TOUR start, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, but for now is excited to rejoin his college teammates for the ACC Championship, April 20-22. “I’ve missed the last three events we’ve played, which has been tough,” said Redman, who also played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, where he finished 71st. “We lost to Duke last year, so we want to win ACCs pretty bad.” NCAA Regionals are set for May 14-16, followed by the National Championship, May 25-29. After all that, Redman will go pro in time for his next TOUR start, at the Memorial. He’s also lined up to play in the U.S. Open, The National outside Washington, D.C., and the Open Championship, and hopes to make enough money to skip Q school and go directly to Web.com Tour Finals. “It’s definitely possible,” said Redman, who hopes to sprinkle in a few more TOUR starts this summer. “I’ve just got to play well. I sat down with my family and coaches to talk about turning pro. I’m just trying to strike while the iron is hot.”
IAN POULTER – Third-round leader finally ran out of gas in his sixth straight week of competition. Going for his second victory in three weeks, the winner of the recent Houston Open never looked sharp, got on a back-nine bogey train and signed for a 75 to finish T7.
BRYSON DECHAMBEAU – Rebounding from a third round that saw him card a triple-bogey and two doubles, DeChambeau chased a third-round 75 with a 66 to finish T3, a shot out of the playoff.
KEVIN KISNER – Gave himself a chance to win for the second straight year, but the South Carolinian shot a final-round 72 to finish 9-under and three out of the playoff, in a tie for seventh.
WESLEY BRYAN – Defending champ shot 70 (T42). Three players have successfully defended at the RBC: Payne Stewart (1989-’90), Davis Love III (1991-’92) and Boo Weekley (2007-’08).
DAVIS LOVE III – After making the cut on the number, five-time winner shot 74-73 on the weekend to finish T74. Dru Love, his son, missed the cut by one (77-66) on Friday.
JIM FURYK – The two-time RBC champion (2010, 2015) shot a second straight 73 to finish T70.
QUOTABLESI’ve never seen so many putts left short for me today. I had a chance on the front to shoot 3- or 4-under, but never got it going.The conditions are really tough, starting with my snap into the water on No. 10, my first hole.This course is very similar to the courses in Japan: a little bit shorter, and a shaped course.
Low round: 65 by Harris English, who went from T69 to T32.
Longest drive: 352 yards (Ryan Palmer/No. 9)
Longest putt: 51’ 1” (Harris English/No. 13)
Toughest hole: The par-3 14th (3.325)