Jake Knapp leans on short game for first Tour win at Mexico Open

Jake Knapp wins the 2024 Mexico Open

A scrappy final round in Nuevo Vallarta gave rookie Jake Knapp his first Tour win.

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Fairways and greens. That’s a winning formula. But don’t tell that to Jake Knapp. He found a different way to get it done.

In a scrappy final round at the 2024 Mexico Open, the long-hitting, laid-back Southern Californian found the short grass with just two of his tee shots and hit only half the greens in regulation. But the only pictures that matter on the scorecard are numbers, and by day’s end Sunday, at Vidanta, in Nuevo Vallarta, Knapp’s even-par final round of 71 was enough to net him his first PGA Tour win, with a four-day total of 19-under par, two shots clear of his fellow Tour rookie and playing partner, Sami Valimaki.

“Definitely didn’t have my best stuff out there,” Knapp said. “I knew it would be nerve-racking. I knew it was going to be tough.”

Entering the day with a four-shot lead, Knapp, 29, was shaky in the early goings, bogeying two of his first three holes as his driver betrayed him with sweeping hooks. The wayward ball-striking marked a stark contrast from Knapp’s play on Saturday, when he fired a course-record front-nine 28 en route to an eight-under 63. 

“I kinda told (my caddie), after those first three holes, that’s as bad as we could have played and we’ve still got a two-shot lead, so just try to settle in,” Knapp says. 

A few holes later, though, Knapp’s lead was gone, as Valimaki eagled the short par-4 7th, pulling the two men even and setting up what boiled down to back-nine match-play for the title.

By then, all the biggest notables had faded from the picture. Defending champion Tony Finau was in the clubhouse, tied for 13th with local favorite and second-round leader Alvaro Ortiz. Other contenders, including Stephan Jaeger and Patrick Rodgers, failed to make a run.

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Having overpowered the course on Saturday, Knapp showed a gift for scrambling down the closing stretch. An up-and-down for par on the stout par-4 10th, where Valimaki found water off the tee, gave Knapp a lead he never relinquished.

Arriving at the closing par-5 with a two-shot lead, Knapp did what he’d been doing all day. He missed the fairway. But when Vilamaki blocked his tee shot and had to take a drop from a fence along a hazard, the deal was sealed. A routine par gave Knapp a victory that comes with a two-year Tour exemption, an invitation to the Masters and the PGA Championship, and exemptions into the remaining signature events in 2024.

Moments later, a champagne-soaked Knapp was asked about his late grandfather, Gordon Bowles, who died last year. Knapp honors Bowles with a tattoo on on the inside of left biceps and said he still texts his grandfather after every round.

What might Gordon be thinking now?

“He’d be pretty pumped,” Knapp said. “He’d probably say, ‘Yo dude, good playing. Winner winner, chicken dinner.’”

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