Patton Kizzire reacts after making a par putt on the sixth playoff hole to defeat James Hahn and win the 2018 Sony Open. (Tim Bradbury)
By Christopher Powers
It took an eternity, but that likely won’t matter to Patton Kizzire, who was able to outlast James Hahn in a sudden-death playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii, ending it on the sixth extra hole with a par. It’s the second victory of his career, the first coming just two months ago at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
“It wasn’t necessarily pretty,” Kizzire said of the longest playoff in Sony Open history, adding, “but it was nice to come out on top. James played a great round today. It was kind of a marathon playoff. I was hoping I could make an eagle on the first hole and end it quickly, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.”
It looked as though the playoff might not have even reached the second hole, when Kizzire left his third shot on the first extra hole short of the green and in the bunker at the par-5 18th. But he came up big on his next, hitting it to within tap-in range for par, which was good enough to extend when Hahn missed his birdie putt. After four more holes of the pair going shot for shot, Kizzire took advantage at the par-3 17th, beating Hahn’s bogey with a par for his second win in his last four starts. Even after this dream start to his 2017-’18 season, Kizzire is still hungry for more.
“This is huge for me, huge for my confidence. One win doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, two means a little more, and three’s even better. I’m always looking for the next one, I’m super excited right now.”
The victory makes him the first player to two victories on the season, and it’s expected to move him from 105th to inside the top 55 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Hahn entered the final round five shots off the lead, but found himself in the playoff after posting the round of the tournament, an eight-under 62 to join Kizzire at 17-under 263. Hahn, a two-time tour winner was previously 2-0 in playoffs, beating Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson in the 2015 Northern Trust and Roberto Castro in the 2016 Wells Fargo. Unfortunately, that record is no longer perfect, but the runner-up finish is his best since his solo third at last season’s AT&T Byron Nelson.
“I had opportunities to win, didn’t pull it off,” Hahn said. “So, for me, I’m a competitor. I’m a grinder, love to compete, I hate losing. It’s going to push me to be better.”
Tom Hoge, the 54-hole leader, cruised along for most of the day, making three birdies and just one bogey through 15 holes to grab the solo lead at 18 under. Three pars would have earned him his first PGA Tour victory, but he ran into major trouble at the par-4 16th, hitting his approach into a greenside bunker and walking away with a disastrous double bogey. Still, he had chances on the 17th and 18th to earn a spot in the playoff, but neither of his birdie looks fell. He ended up with an even-par 70 to finish in solo third at 16-under 264.
“I played well. I would have liked a few more putts to go early on in the day. Ultimately, it’s a swing on 8 and swing on 16, same ones,” Hoge said. “I was kind of in between yardages on both of them. I was trying to play kind of a low draw to get to the back pins there and just kind of flipped to the bottom left. I was in a tough spot on 16 in the bunker there.”
“I hit two good shots on 17 and 18 to give myself a chance. Hit good putts, just didn’t quite find the bottom. That’s how it goes.”
A potential breakthrough win for Hoge will have to wait, but the solo third is the best finish of his career on the PGA Tour.
For Brian Harman, it was another tough weekend in paradise after holding the 36-hole lead. He played his final two rounds in just two under, including a final-round even-par 70 to finish at 15-under 265 in a tie for fourth. The two-time PGA Tour winner won’t be pleased with walking away without the victory, but the T-4 does mark his fifth top 10 finish in as many starts this season, and his third straight inside the top four.
Harman was joined at 15 under by Webb Simpson and Brian Stuard, who both vaulted into the top 5 with five-under 65s on Sunday. It’s Stuard’s second T-4 finish of the season, and third inside the top 10. For Simpson, he’s now finished T-20 or better in three of his four starts this season.
Gary Woodland, Ben Martin and Ollie Schniederjans finished in a tie for sixth at 14-under 266.
Defending champion Justin Thomas will leave Hawaii without a victory this season, but a final-round two-under 68 earned him a T-14 finish at 12-under 268. One behind Thomas was Jordan Spieth, who carded a second straight four-under 66 to finish in a tie for 18th at 11-under 269.