Seung-Yul Noh wasn't amazing on Sunday at the Zurich Classic at TPC of Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana, but he was good enough to hold off the field and pick up his maiden PGA victory.
South Korea's Noh finished at 19-under, which was good enough to give him a two-stroke victory over Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb. Keegan Bradley began the day in second, but after firing a 75 on Sunday, he finished tied for eighth at 13-under.
Have a look at the final top 10 below, or feel free to view the complete leaderboard on PGA.com.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise indicated.
Day 4 Recap
Noh entered the final day having not fired a single bogey over his first three rounds to carry a two-stroke lead into Sunday. It was quickly clear that the 22-year-old would not be able to hold that par-or-better streak over the whole tournament. He bogeyed the first hole.
The rough start looked like it would doom the youngster. Golf fans had seen it before. A young player takes a lead into the final round, gets off to a rough start and quickly plays himself out of contention. Noh was far too polished to allow that to happen.
He didn't have another bogey on the front en route to an even-par 36. He was never out of the lead on Sunday. PGATOUR tweeted congratulations:
After Huh's initial bogey, Keegan Bradley was in great shape. He birdied No. 2 and was tied for Huh going into the fifth hole.
Bradley played the fifth and sixth at a combined four-over. Huh was in control from that point on.
Noh was up and down on the back with three birdies and two bogeys. At no point on the back, though, did it feel like he was going to give this tournament away.
It was shots like the one tweeted below by PGA TOUR from No. 16, that allowed Noh to walk down the 18th with a two-stroke lead.
GolfWRX tweeted a pic of Noh's Nike irons to give fans a glimpse of what is in the winner's bag:
This was a huge win for Seung-Yul Noh. Not only was it his maiden victory, but at just 22 and with a complete game, this win will open up doors for him that he has a chance to burst through. He has a spot booked at Augusta for the Masters next year with this win. He is also moving up the money list. He now has over $1.6 million in earnings for the year and is 18th on the money list.
Day 3 Recap
Shooting multiple flawless rounds in the same tournament is a rare feat in the golfing world. Although, that's exactly what South Korea's Seung-Yul Noh is doing.
Noh is bogey free through 54 holes at the Zurich Classic and is attempting to be the first golfer since Lee Trivino in 1974 to make it through 72 holes and gain a win without a blemish on his score card, according to a tweet from the Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner:
Noh fired a third-round 65 on Saturday, matching his tournament low. After three birdies on the front, and four on the back, he found himself in some trouble on the 18th hole.
After driving into a bunker on the right side of the fairway, Noh had an awkward stance which forced him to lay up. He put his third shot about 25 feet from the pin and two putted for the par.
Kyle Porter of CBS Sports had some very high praise for Noh, according to this tweet:
Just how red hot has Noh been? Check out this incredible shot from the fairway on hole 16:
Seung-yul Noh trying to become the first player since Lee Trevino (1974) to go bogey-free and win.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) April 26, 2014
His consistency gives him a great chance to come away with a victory on Sunday.
Unfortunately for former leader Ben Martin, the same cannot be said.
Martin struggled on Saturday, posting a one-over 73. With two bogeys and a birdie on the front nine, he couldn't get any momentum going and recorded nine-straight pars on the back side.
I'm a Seung-yul Noh fan. Buying stock. His swing is incredible. Faldo just compared it to Adam Scott's!— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) April 26, 2014
He's now slipped to T4 and is four strokes off the pace. Martin is still in striking distance, but will need to go low to catch Noh on Sunday.
Keegan Bradley continued his surge on Saturday, matching Noh's score of 65. He continues to play better by the day and now sits alone in second just two strokes off the pace.
Bradley's found his swing, and Peter Kostis does a fantastic job of analyzing his motion:
Paul Casey was the tournament's biggest mover on Saturday. He fired a 64—the day's low round—to propel himself into a two-way tie for seventh place. After jumping 20 positions on Saturday, he's primed to continue to ride his momentum in Round 4.
Ben Martin led by 3 at the start of Round 3. He was the only player in the top 40 to shoot over par (73). Now trails by 4.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) April 26, 2014
Course conditions have been phenomenal through three rounds, and these golfers are taking full advantage.
With so many low scores being posted on a daily basis, it's safe to say we will certainly be in for a treat on Day 4.
Day 2 Recap
It appeared as though Ben Martin was just going to run away with the tournament at the beginning of his second round. A tap-in birdie at the par-four 10th hole (his first) was followed up by a chip-in eagle at No. 2.
A bogey at the par-three 17th and a double bogey just before the turn dropped him to one under on his front nine, but Martin regrouped at the turn and rattled off four more birdies on his second nine to post a five-under 67.
To rebound from the disappointment of what could have been so much more to start shows that Martin may indeed become the latest breakthrough winner on tour this season.
After two wins on the Web.com Tour last year, Martin seemed destined for something special on pro golf's top circuit. Things didn't quite work out that way to start the year, but since his third-place finish last week at the RBC Heritage, he's found something that clicks extremely well.
Check out how bad things had gotten for Martin before his recent strong form, courtesy of ESPN's Justin Ray:
There are plenty of challengers chasing him, including Svoboda, who bogeyed his final hole of Round 2 to settle for a 68. Since he's gaining better than three strokes on the field in putting and is playing peerless golf from tee to green, he could be in line for his maiden PGA Tour win, too.
Several other storylines on the leaderboard are developing, and they would also be excellent. Other major champions other than Bradley, whose stellar 66 on Friday has him just seven back, are Retief Goosen and former world No. 1 David Duval.
Goosen has battled back problems in recent years but is well on his way to a positive result this week, posting a bogey-free 65 to vault himself into a tie for 12th with Duval and a massive cluster of players.
Mike O'Malley of Golf Digest pointed to the trials and tribulations Duval has endured as it became apparent that the grinding veteran would make it to the weekend after a second consecutive round in the 60s:
Ben Martin: -24 over last 2 weeks (6 rounds); previous 4 starts - missed every cut, combined score of +20.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 25, 2014
After the first round, Duval insisted that he had a chance to win, per D.J. Piehowski of PGATour.com:
I’m not delusional about it now, I know how I’m hitting the golf ball and how I’m swinging the club. I feel comfortable. I feel natural again. I feel like the timing is right. […] Is it fair to fully expect to come out here and win this golf tournament after a month off? Maybe not. But I’m here to tell you stranger things have happened. I’m hitting the golf ball well enough to do it.
It would have been easy to doubt Duval given his recent history, but he was able to back it up with his play, which included this excellent birdie at the par-four 12th hole:
Despite having one of the weaker fields of the 2013-14 season, the Zurich Classic has a strong mix of older players headlined by Duval in the mix to win this weekend, along with Martin and Svoboda playing in the final group to start the third round in seek of their first wins.
While Svoboda has never been in this type of position before, perhaps Martin can draw on playing in the final pairing at the RBC Heritage and apply it to his experience this week. Playing well may not be good enough to take home the trophy, though, because TPC Louisiana is yielding a lot of birdies thus far. That should allow aggressive players like Bradley to fire at flags and apply pressure in the groups in front of the final duo.
Martin has his work cut out for him even with a three-stroke lead to go wire-to-wire, but Svoboda's lack of experience may help his cause.
Day 1 Recap
Ben Martin raced out to an excellent start, with birdies on six of the first eight holes to shoot 62 and grab a two-shot lead after the first round.
While he couldn't keep up that blistering pace, he didn't bogey a single hole. Of course, afterward, he seemed less interested in his record round and more in the fact that he was able to execute his game plan.
From the tournament's Twitter account:
It appears this will be David Duval's third made cut of the year. Cuts made each year from 2003-'13: 4, 3, 1, 11, 4, 5, 6, 11, 9, 3, 1.— Mike O'Malley (@GD_MikeO) April 25, 2014
Perhaps Martin's excellent round shouldn't have come as a huge surprise. Since January, Martin's been very hit or miss. In his past nine tournaments coming into Thursday, he's missed seven cuts. But he also finished third at both the Puerto Rico Open and the RBC Heritage. So when he's been good, he's been darn good.
And in a tournament lacking a ton of big-name talent, Martin's huge round and Svoboda's impressive showing earlier in the day were certainly welcome sights. Three contenders in particular really struggled out of the gate, as Ryan Lavner of GolfChannel.com noted:
With only nine top-50 players teeing it up this week at TPC Louisiana, the Zurich already had one of the weakest fields of the season. Now, it’s in jeopardy of losing even more star power, after shaky starts from defending champion Billy Horschel (74), Patrick Reed (74) and Rickie Fowler (75).
All three players teed off in the afternoon, when the wind gusted to 20 mph and the Bermuda greens became bumpy.
'That’s the way it goes sometimes,' Horschel said. 'You get on the wrong side of the draw, and it works out that way. Maybe we can get no wind tomorrow early in the morning for us, and the wind can pick back up in the afternoon and make it fair for everybody.'
Thankfully, Martin was able to make fans forget about the lack of star power, at least for a round.
While he undoubtedly stole the show, there were a number of other highlights throughout the day, with two particularly memorable moments taking place on the 16th. There was David Hearn's lovely approach and birdie, via the PGA Tour on Twitter:
Ben Martin in the interview room now. Says he didn't know he beat the course record until after the round. pic.twitter.com/c03zdisxou— Zurich Classic (@Zurich_Classic) April 25, 2014
And then there was Bud Cauley's epic putt for birdie:
Martin said he isn't too worried about shooting 62 today, but instead on how well he executed his routine all day. Very proud of that.— Zurich Classic (@Zurich_Classic) April 25, 2014
And David Duval—playing on a sponsor exemption—shot a four-under 68, making him one of the stories of the day. The former No. 1 hasn't won a golf tournament since 2001, as he's been hampered by injuries, but he at least kept himself in the running to end that streak on Thursday.
The question now will be whether Martin can hold on to his lead. Six players are within just four strokes, and it's going to be hard for Martin to replicate anything close to his sizzling round. And with so many players staying below par, challengers are going to emerge.
Martin has made a habit of either struggling or playing excellent golf this season. He's certainly started on the latter path, but he'll need a big weekend if he's going to get his first win of the season.