Golf: Swafford finally on board with win

Hudson Swafford at the CareerBuilder Challenge event which he won on Sunday by one stroke. The 29-year-old is in his fourth year on the PGA Tour and had never finished higher than a tie for eighth.
Hudson Swafford at the CareerBuilder Challenge event which he won on Sunday by one stroke. The 29-year-old is in his fourth year on the PGA Tour and had never finished higher than a tie for eighth.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

In his 93rd pro start, 29-year-old joins former University of Georgia mates with Tour title

LOS ANGELES • They were all former University of Georgia golfers who had big dreams of turning professional and winning on the PGA Tour.

But while Harris English, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk and Brendon Todd have realised that dream of a PGA Tour victory, the 29-year-old Hudson Swafford had yet to win in 92 previous career starts.

That wait ended on Sunday, even as the American admitted that the pressure was wearing down on him as he began last week ranked 204th in the world.

"If it doesn't bother you that all your friends have won around you, then you probably need to look for another job," a smiling Swafford said after finally getting his first PGA Tour victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta.

"It creates a little fire. Harris has two wins, Harman has a win, Russell has two wins, Chris Kirk has four, maybe, B-Todd has one. I played golf in college with all those guys, played junior and amateur golf. It's just satisfying to be a part of it and it motivates you."

He finally joined the winner's circle on Sunday, firing a five-under 67 for a one-stroke victory at the US$5.8 million (S$8.24 million) CareerBuilder Challenge.

"This is a dream come true," Swafford added. "I really didn't get ahead of myself, didn't really look at leaderboards, didn't really know where I was."

He compiled a 20-under 268 total to finish one stroke ahead of Canada's Adam Hadwin, who closed with a 70, one day after storming to a 13-under 59 in the third round.

Bud Cauley and Harman both shot 69s and finished in a tie for third at 18-under 270.

"Swafford was a big kid with a powerful swing then," recalled Harman of their younger days. "It hasn't changed. He's a big ole boy at 1.9 metres tall and he hits it a long way and he's as good a guy as you would ever want to meet."

Swafford is in his fourth year on the Tour and had never finished higher than a tie for eighth. In five previous starts this season his best finish was a tie for 13th at last week's Sony Open.

"I felt like my posture was good all day, and it just allowed the club to be in a perfect slot," the Florida native said. "That's all we focused on this week. I had really good rhythm, was standing tall and was hitting it beautifully.

"I didn't make every putt I looked at, but I felt like I was hitting some pretty good putts, and to hit birdies on three of the last four, it was pretty special."

The win comes with some nice perks, as Swafford is now qualified for the Masters, the Players Championship, the Dean and Deluca Invitational, the Memorial, the PGA Championship and the 2018 SBS Tournament of Champions.

Third-round leader Hadwin was also in search of his first PGA Tour win but his two-under 70 left him just shy of victory.

"I can't help but be slightly disappointed," Hadwin said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Swafford finally on board with win'. Print Edition | Subscribe