Lee Hodges joined the PGA Tour winners’ club in style as he led from start to finish and ran out a seven-stroke winner at the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Minnesota.
Rounds of 63, 64 and 66 saw the 28-year-old from Alabama take a five-shot lead into the final round, with two-time tour winner J.T. Poston his nearest challenger, and six-time winner Tony Finau one further adrift.
Hodges, who came into the week ranked 110 in the world, eased any early jitters with a birdie at the second and an eagle-three at the fifth suggested that the final-round collapse the chasing pack were craving wasn’t going to materialise.
A bogey at the ninth provided a glimmer of hope for Poston and co. but a second Hodges eagle followed at the par-5 12th and it looked as though a victory procession was in order.
Poston wasn’t going down without a fight, however, and despite trailing by six after Hodges’ eagle at 12, carded back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 as Hodges dropped a stroke, and the defecit was reduced to three on the par-5 closing hole.
To his credit, Poston was going for broke, and found the water short of the green in two leading to a triple-bogey eight and would see him drop to a share of second place alongside Scotland’s Martin Laird and Kevin Streelman.
Hodges closed out the event in style, opting to layup and then wedging to 18 inches from 115 yards for a closing birdie and an extremely well-deserved maiden PGA Tour title.
“I thought I was super aggressive,” Hodges would say in the aftermath. “Anytime you hit two 3-woods inside 10 feet you’re being pretty aggressive. Those were two of the greatest shots I ever hit. Wish I maybe would have been a little less aggressive with my putter, I ran a couple by there late, but whatever, it all worked out.
Despite the strong advantage he’d enjoyed from the outset, he tried to remain focused on the task at hand and not let thoughts of victory enter his head.
“I’d say the first time I actually let myself think about winning was after I hit the third shot on 18,” he said. “Other than that, I was just completely focused on what I was doing out there, which is probably why I played some nice golf.
“Probably should try and do that more.”
Poston, despite the triple at the end which cost him $260,000, had no regrets about the aggressive approach to the final hole.
“Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day it’s not the way I wanted to end,” he said, “but I had to try and give it a shot and see if there was some way I could make 3 there at the end and put some pressure on Lee. It was a shot that was going to be hard to pull off, but we weren’t playing for second place. I had to give it a shot. Unfortunately, made 8 there at the last, but overall it was a good week. Game’s in a great spot, I’m playing good, so excited about where it’s at going into the rest of the season.”