Seung-Yul Noh fired a final round one-under-par 71 to post 19-under 269 to win the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana outside New Orleans. The 22-year-old South Korean converted his 54-hole lead to defeat American youngsters Robert Streb and Andrew Svoboda by two shots. The 2010 runner-up, Jeff Overton, claimed solo fourth.
On Sunday Noh made his first bogey of the WEEK on the first hole but he held his composure over the next eight holes to turn in even par 36. On the inward nine it was a rollercoaster as his lead would balloon and shrink every hole. His biggest shot of the week was his iron to three feet on No. 16 after a possible momentum-killing bogey on the previous hole. After kicking that putt in he holed a quality 14-footer for par on No. 17 to take, at the time, a three-shot lead to the treacherous 18th. He played it smart and took the water out of play and his final par saw the margin of victory finish at two shots.
For the week, Noh had to keep his emotions in check as his native South Korea was dealing with human tragedy with the ferry disaster. As Jason Day did in Australia after a typhoon hit near and dear to his relatives in the Philippines, Noh was playing for those affected.
And boy did he play!
He opened with 65 on Thursday and followed with 68 and another 65 before his closing round of 71. A final birdie on the 72nd hole would have seen him tie the tournament record but that’s not going to bother him one bit. Ball-striking was going to be the key this week as the rough was almost non-existent. Noh was among the leaders as he finished T4 in GIR. On Thursday, he hit only 43% of the fairways but hit 17 of 18 GIR. That’s light rough!. His putting numbers were also well above average as he was seventh in putts per GIR and 11th in strokes gained-putting.
It took Noh 78 starts to break through but gamers have been sniffing around him since he broke on the scene in 2012. We were interested because this young kid had already won TWICE on the Asian Tour and also started working with swing guru Sean Foley. His Foley has been known as one of the best teachers around so taking on Noh was a clue that this kid was legit. In 2012 he bagged 24 of 28 cuts and racked up 13 top 25s while working on his swing. Last year he reminded us that he was only 21 and only made 11 cuts of 25 while tuning up his swing. He did rally late in the year to win a Web.com Tour playoff event and claim his TOUR card for 2013-14. The fruits of the labor finally paid off as he started racking up cuts, 11 straight before his WD at SHO, in 2013-2014. His wrist injury wasn’t anything to be concerned with, obviously, but it makes sense as to why gamers weren’t on him this week. That and the fact he MC in 2013 and was T66 in 2012!
Noh has always had plenty of length but to watch him work the golf ball on Sunday showed me that he has the chops to win as well. Sure, he had to hold off the likes of Andrew Svoboda, Robert Streb and Jeff Overton but he did it. Period. He’s now won on the Asian Tour, Web.com Tour and the PGA TOUR. I’ve always believed the guys who have won multiple events in the past will be the guys to win in the future. The other impressive part of his first victory, besides the emotional component was he had to execute in winds blowing 15-25 mph. Bravo, Noh!
With his victory, Noh collects $1,224,000, 500 FedExCup Points and a two-year exemption on TOUR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the 19 of 24 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every and Matt Kuchar have cashed for the red, white and blue. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed four victories and now we add South Korean S.Y. Noh to the party. Europe? Hello, Europe?
S.Y. Noh joined Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley and Matt Jones as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had seven in 24 events so far in 2014. Anyone of the four best this week would have been a first-timer.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 12 of 23 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday. Noh began Sunday with a two-shot lead over Keegan Bradley and converted his first 54-hole lead. He actually had never led a tournament on the weekend in his career. #HurdlesCleared
Billy Horschel MC so there has not been a repeat champion in nine events at TPC Louisiana. The defending champ has never finished inside T20 the year after winning. That’s the ONLY bad news Noh has to deal with tonight!
Noh’s victory makes it SIX first-time winners in NINE events. The leaderboard, with the exception of Keegan Bradley, looked like a Web.com Tour event on Saturday afternoon. The reason why first-timers do so well around here is that they are used to birdie-fests and that’s exactly what goes on here. The last three winners, all first-timers, have finished -19, -20 and -19. Anytime there is a shoot-out on TOUR, more players have a chance of winning because they had to make birdies to survive at the previous level. Plus, the youngsters are freaking FEARLESS and have no problem getting low.
Ben Martin set the course record with 62 on Thursday. The old record was 64. He backed it up with 67 before 73-75 on the weekend saw him finish T15.
With his T11 finish, J.B. Holmes is now free and clear of his Major Medical Exemption. That’s hardly surprising as he’s been cooking lately and now he’s loaded and ready to go for the rest of 2014. He was my Group 3 player in the GolfChannel.com game and my lone wolf in Group C in Yahoo! #Bravo
Brooks Koepka can join Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson as the Special Temporary Members on TOUR this season. Koepka, who Monday qualified, finished T21 to lock up unlimited starts and sponsor’s exemptions, which he was out of for the rest of 2014, if he chooses to accept the STM.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, won over the last three weeks before Watson chalked up win No. 2 of the season. Matt Kuchar, 35, joins this list this week as he racks up his seventh career win.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) and now Noh, 22, are the twenty-somethings on the board.
John Senden’s back is hurting from carrying the “Old Guys” this season as he’s the only winner on TOUR in his 40s. David Toms, who has been playing decent golf as of late, was T15 to fly the flag for the oldies, but goodies.