DALLAS, TX – MAY 20: Aaron Wise reacts following his birdie putt on the ninth green during the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club on May 20, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Before he registered a career-best T-2 finish earlier this month at the Wells Fargo Championship, Aaron Wise said his “time was going to come eventually” in regards to a victory. Little did he know it would come in his very next start just two weeks later.
Despite a four-hour rain delay, Wise left no doubt on Sunday at Trinity Forest Golf Club, carding a bogey-free six-under 65 to win the AT&T Byron Nelson by three strokes over Marc Leishman. It was Wise’s first career PGA Tour win, and it comes in just his 26th start.
“It’s awesome, I get to plan my schedule, this is huge for me,” said Wise, who at 21 became the youngest winner on tour since Si Woo Kim won the 2017 Players Championship. “The majors, getting up there in the FedEx Cup, definitely in the playoffs now. It’s huge, it’s a dream come true to win this one.”
While the T-2 at Quail Hollow followed by this victory may seem like a surprise, it’s not to those who have followed Wise’s quick rise to this position. He’s won at every level he’s competed in, including taking the NCAA individual crown in 2016, the 2015 Pacific Amateur, and racking up wins on both the Mackenzie and Web.com Tours. Those experiences, plus a close call at the Wells Fargo, came in handy on Sunday in Dallas despite the fact that he would be a senior at Oregon this spring if he hadn’t turned pro after his sophomore year.
“Just a ton of self belief. It was always there, but to do it on a stage, to know I’ve done it really helped me today,” Wise said. “I felt oddly calm all day long and to pull that off and play as good as I did today, bogey free, it was awesome.
“I was more nervous yesterday, oddly enough. It’s pretty incredible to get this win.”
With the win, Wise earns a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour as well as an invitation to next year’s Masters.
Leishman shot a final-round three-under 68, one that included an eagle at the par-4 fifth and four birdies. But bogeys at the second, 10th and 15th holes wound up being the difference. It’s his sixth finish of ninth or better this season, and his second solo runner-up, the first coming in October when he lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.
Branden Grace posted a nine-under 62 that featured an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie-par stretch to finish his round and put him in a tie for third with J.J. Spaun and Keith Mitchell at 19-under 265. Ryan Blaum, Kevin Na and Jimmy Walker tied for sixth at 16-under 268.