LA QUINTA, Calif. — Nick Dunlap would not possess a false confidence, and he would not venture a supernatural calm. The College of Alabama sophomore absolutely understood simply how wild it was to be heading off a discipline of pros Sunday whereas he tried to grow to be the PGA Tour’s first novice winner in 33 years.
“Most nervous I’ve ever been, by far,” Dunlap mentioned. “Simply tried to breathe, but additionally lookup and luxuriate in it somewhat bit.”
The 20-year-old merely performed by way of all of it — by way of his errors, the rising strain and the general improbability of his week at The American Categorical.
Dunlap got here out of it with a victory that might herald the arrival of a significant golf expertise — and one who may not even want to complete the homework he introduced with him to the West Coast.
Dunlap swallowed his nerves one final time to make a 6-foot par putt on the ultimate gap, holding on for a 1-shot victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
“Everyone’s obtained doubts,” Dunlap mentioned. “I most likely had a thousand totally different situations in my head of how at the moment was going to go, and it went nothing like I anticipated. I feel that was the cool half about it. That is golf.”
The reigning U.S. Newbie champion is the tour’s first novice winner since Phil Mickelson on the Tucson Open in 1991. Taking part in in his fourth tour occasion, Dunlap turned the seventh novice winner since 1945 — and the third since 1957.
Mickelson took to social media to commend Dunlap, one in all many posts throughout the golf world that hailed the feat — together with some from Dunlap’s personal Crimson Tide teammates.
“Such a formidable efficiency by Nick Dunlap,” Mickelson wrote. “Congratulations on an unbelievable win. That is only the start.”
Such a formidable efficiency by Nick Dunlap. Congratulations on an unbelievable win. That is only the start 👍👍
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) January 22, 2024
What an incredible accomplishment by @NickDunlap62 , stellar play and solution to pull by way of beneath strain to hitch a really selective group of gamers to win PGA tour occasions as an novice! Nice future forward of this nice expertise! Congratulations.
— Jon Rahm Rodriguez (@JonRahmOfficial) January 22, 2024
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 22, 2024
The one novice within the 156-player discipline within the match lengthy often called the Bob Hope Desert Basic, Dunlap surged right into a 3-shot lead with a scorching 12-under 60 within the third spherical. He misplaced that lead Sunday on the entrance 9 on the Stadium Course at PGA West, however he performed with the resilience of a seasoned veteran down the stretch, capped by his restoration from two errant pictures on the 18th for the successful par.
“Nothing like I’ve ever felt,” Dunlap mentioned. “It was so cool to be out right here and expertise this as an novice. Whether or not I had made that or missed that [last putt], in case you would have advised me [on] Wednesday evening I might have a putt to win this golf match, I would not imagine you.”
After a day of back-and-forth competitors, Dunlap and Sam Burns have been tied for the lead when Burns put his tee shot within the water and double-bogeyed the seventeenth. Dunlap thought he had a 2-stroke lead when he stepped as much as the 18th, as a result of he and his caddie did not test the leaderboard or see Bezuidenhout’s birdie moments earlier.
Dunlap’s tee shot then landed excessive within the tough, and his second shot may need hit a spectator earlier than it took a lucky roll from the tough right into a grassy drainage space off the inexperienced.
Dunlap obtained inside 6 toes along with his third shot, and he celebrated the par putt for the title with hugs from his mother and father, his girlfriend and his school coach, Jay Seawell, who all flew cross-country over the weekend to look at in individual.
He ended up with a 70 — his worst spherical of the week by far — to complete at 29-under 259 and break the match scoring report as a 72-hole occasion. He is additionally the youngest winner within the occasion’s historical past, and he turned the youngest novice to win on the tour since 1910.
Dunlap and Tiger Woods are the one gamers to win each the U.S. Newbie and the U.S. Junior Newbie. Whereas Dunlap obtained the celebration Sunday for one of the spectacular performances in latest golf historical past, he would not get the $1.5 million first-place prize, which matches to Bezuidenhout after the South African’s final-round 65.
Dunlap additionally would not get the five hundred FedEx Cup factors — however his rewards are nonetheless ample. If he stays at Alabama he will get within the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open because the U.S. Newbie champion. If he turns professional and joins the PGA Tour, he nonetheless will get within the Masters and U.S. Open, together with the remaining seven $20 million signature occasions on tour.
“It is wonderful,” Bezuidenhout mentioned about Dunlap’s achievement. “Truly, I heard his identify final 12 months when he received the U.S. Newbie. He is clearly a hell of a participant, and congrats to him. Hopefully, he will be out on the PGA Tour quickly, and all of us can get to play with him.”
Dunlap and his mother and father each mentioned they hadn’t instantly determined what he’ll do subsequent — however his meteoric profession hit yet one more top within the Coachella Valley.
“I do not know, I actually do not,” Dunlap mentioned about his future. “It is actually cool to have that chance within the first place. Beginning the week, in case you would have mentioned, ‘Hey, in 5 days you are going to have a PGA Tour card, or a possibility for 2 years,’ I might have checked out you sideways. However that is one thing that it would not simply have an effect on me. It impacts lots of people — Coach again there, and my teammates — and it is a dialog I must have with lots of people earlier than I make that call.”
Dunlap was already planning to play at Torrey Pines subsequent week on a sponsor exemption, however he acknowledged he additionally introduced homework to California.
“Most likely will not do it, although,” he mentioned with a smile.
Dunlap wanted toughness to beat his nerves in his closing spherical. His 3-shot lead vanished abruptly on the seventh when he put his tee shot into the water and double-bogeyed whereas Burns birdied it.
Dunlap shortly reclaimed the lead, misplaced it once more and battled Burns down the stretch, pulling even with a birdie on the sixteenth.
After which Burns was the one who flinched, utterly lacking the famed island inexperienced on the seventeenth and hitting the water.
“I did not need to win by him hitting within the water,” Dunlap mentioned. “I needed to win by making 4 birdies the final 4 holes. However sadly, that is golf. I’ve performed it quite a few occasions.”
Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Yu tied for third at 27 beneath. Burns led the occasion after two rounds with a career-low 61, and he was tied with two holes to play Sunday earlier than hitting into the water on every of his closing two holes and carding back-to-back double bogeys, ending in a tie for sixth.
Info from The Related Press was used on this report.