K.H. Lee surges at rainy Byron Nelson for first PGA Tour win
After an action-packed week at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, we’ve crowned a winner at the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson. Here’s what you missed in the final round.
Who won? K.H. Lee (6-under 66; 25 under overall)
How it happened: On a rainy Sunday in Texas, the PGA Tour crowned a first-time winner. K.H. Lee, a 29-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, won his first-ever event on North American soil by three strokes at the AT&T Byron Nelson, joining a pair of fellow countrymen to win the Texas event (Sung Kang, Sang-moon Bae).
Lee, who entered Sunday part of a crowded leaderboard chasing 54-hole leader Sam Burns, vaulted into the lead with the help of a red-hot front nine, recording five birdies to only a single bogey. The back nine as dominated by fits of rain and a thunderstorm that eventually cleared the course for 2.5 hours. When he came back to address his 15-foot putt on the 16th green, Lee missed and made bogey, opening the door for Sam Burns just a touch. But it was settled on Lee’s very next swing, where he hit his approach on the par-3 17th to inside four feet. He made the putt, striped a drive, found the par-5 in two and two-putted for another birdie on 18. Piece of cake.
Why it matters? The win was the first PGA Tour victory of Lee’s career, and only the fifth win of his professional career to date (the previous four came evenly split between the Japan Golf Tour and the Korean Tour). In addition to the tournament’s beefy winner’s check, Lee earns a customary three-year exemption to all PGA Tour events and entrance into the Masters and this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
Why so late? Rain! A water-soaked Sunday forced tournament organizers to move up tee times in order to finish play by the end of the day on Sunday. As such, the entirety of the field teed off by 9 a.m. local time, with groups split into threesomes and tees split between the first and 10th tee boxes. Still, with the leaders on the 16th hole, lightning forced a delay, which pushed back the end of the tournament until later in the afternoon. Lee waited more than 2.5 hours between shots.
A Spieth sighting: If you locked in to the early portion of the weekend, it’s possible you saw Jordan Spieth’s mind-bending, 65-foot, walkoff eagle putt to tie for the Thursday lead. In fact, Thursday was Spieth’s first tournament round since the final round of the Masters in early April. The three-time major champ revealed Tuesday that he contracted Covid-19 in the aftermath of golf’s first major, a diagnosis that forced him to sit out for the better part of a month. “I wasn’t planning to take a month off in the spring,” he told reporters.
But if the virus had any lingering effects on his game, it wasn’t obvious at the Byron Nelson. Spieth picked right up where he left off at Augusta, playing his way into contention and eventually finishing the weekend at 18 under for another top 10 finish. The turnaround couldn’t have come any sooner — Spieth looks to vie for the career grand slam in a few days at the PGA Championship.
Best round: A hat tip to Patton Kizzire, the PGA Tour journeyman who vaulted himself into contention on Sunday with an unconscious final round performance. The 35-year-old pro carded 10(!) birdies to shoot a nine-under 63 on Sunday, moving himself into a tie for third and a hefty check on Sunday.
Up next: The field picks up and heads east to Kiawah Island for the site of golf’s second major in 2021, the PGA Championship. Collin Morikawa will look to defend his first-ever major at the site of Rory McIlroy’s historic 2012 romp, the Ocean Course.