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.
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.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Andrew Svoboda: If you had action heading into Sunday on the Johnnie that would finished the highest up the leaderboard, I bet you had Keegan Bradley and not his college teammate at St. John’s Andrew Svoboda. After winning twice on the Web.com last year, he’s only had 11 events to prove his worth on TOUR this year. He’s only made the cut in six events but he has four of those going for T26 or better including this week’s career-best finish of T2. He was T24 at Puerto Rico and T26 at Valero in his previous two outings. It shows some guts to play a tight schedule and produce results. He’s now played eight rounds here in the last two years and he’s played seven of them under par. He’s 12th in ball-striking, 48th in scrambling and 40th in total putting. That’s VERY solid across the board and should translate on most courses moving forward. He’ll be playing with house money for the rest of the year and that will help with the confidence!
Robert Streb: #StrebThroat was Mr. 126th last year on TOUR after hitting five top 25s in 25 starts. This season, in only seven starts, he’s played the weekend at every one of them. Going back to last season, he’s now played on nine weekends in a row, good enough for 10th on TOUR. His solid ball-striking and scrambling are his calling card and this week he T1 in birdies with 23, second in GIR and 14th in strokes gained-putting. He made four bogeys on Sunday after only making two over the first three rounds but still had his career-best finish, T2. He’ll be playing with house money the rest of the year as well.
Jeff Overton: #BoomBaby returns to the Wrap-Up column for the first time since Sony in early January. Overton had a very solid fall with four of his five starts T23 or better. A nagging wrist injury that he’s mentioned on his Twitter account has kept him from his best this spring but his solo fourth Sunday was his best finish since T4 at the 2012 SHO. Overton reminded us on Twitter this week that this was the beginning of his excellent run in 2010 to make the Ryder Cup team. His solo fourth was his second top four here in five years and fourth top 18 in six years. #Horseforcourse. His wrist will always be in the back of my mind but he’s shown flashes of hot play before that should be taken into consideration.
Robert Garrigus: Another player teeing it up with a heavy heart this week, Garrigus’s caddy, Brent Henley, lost his father earlier in the week. Garrigus rolled out the day’s lowest score, 64, in honor of his caddy’s father to finish T5. Players can use this motivation to try too hard sometimes but the power of the human spirit, when it works, is quite outstanding. The interesting angle to this is Garrigus has done nothing in four events previous in New Orleans and was coming off weeks of MC, T61 and 73rd.
Erik Compton: The knock on Compton previously was that his game didn’t travel outside of the state of Florida. #Mythbusted this year as he’s now gained top 25s in Sand Diego and Houston on top of his T-season best T5 this week. That’s now 10 weekends from his last 11 as well so he’s playing solid golf this season. In three of his last five starts he’s finishes T5, T12 and T5.
Charley Hoffman: In seven previous events on this track, Hoffman had never finished better than T19. This is another fantastic reminder that course form cannot be the only determining factor when researching players. Hoffman has now pegged 13 of 14 weekends this season and eight of them have been top 25s. His T5 this week is his first top 10 since back-to-backs at Humana and FIO in January. See, cutting off his hair did NOTHING to affect his golf!
Justin Rose: When I was making dinner this evening, I cut the hell out of the tip of my right pinky finger. I NEVER KNEW HOW MUCH I HIT BACKSPACE UNTIL RIGHT NOW. God, I’m a terrible typist. Rose tees it up. Rose hits the top 10 for the second time in his last three starts at Zurich just like we all believed he would. He saved most people’s week in Yahoo! Well, at least mine!
Keegan Bradley: I benched him this week because I only had five starts remaining on him and his record here was bleak. His 75 on Sunday, including another “other” on the card, probably frustrated a few gamers out there. He was the favorite entering Sunday for my money and he couldn’t catch or pass Noh, Streb or Svoboda. This was another story of good news, bad news but at winning time he didn’t fire as the big number found him. Again. The good news is that this is his second top 10 in four events. #WavyGravy
Tommy Gainey: This was his first top 10 since the 2013 HTOC and his first visit inside the top 44 in 13 events. He did fire 68 in the final round of the RBC Heritage so I’ll take a look his next time out. He also benefited from the lack of rough as he was T59 in fairways and T4 in GIR.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Justin Rose: T8, see above.
Rickie Fowler: Entered the week coming off back-to-back top 10s, including T6 at the Masters. He exited the week on Friday after 75-72. That’s a tough one to swallow in a shallow field.
Graham DeLaet: I’m guessing I’m a week early on him as he only made two bogeys in his first three rounds en route to 8-under before his 73 on Sunday saw him finish T29. That 73 included two bogeys and a double and never let him get going. He led the field in GIR but was nearly last in strokes gained-putting and in birdies made.
Ryan Palmer: His 71-72 saw him MC by one shot so that’s hardly the sign of impending danger.
Matt Every: WD after opening with 76. Not this again! I’ll put this down as a one-off especially after his T8, WIN, MC and T12 in his last four.
Keegan Bradley: T8, see above.
Billy Horschel: Played in the group of death with Fowler and Reed. All three missed the cut. Not even the good vibes from the place where he won and set the course and tournament record could set him straight this week. Time to leave him be, Glass…
Patrick Reed: Another player who could have used a good ol’ fashioned birdie fest to get back on track, Reed hit it everywhere and didn’t make any birdies. Young players go up, young players go down…
Chris Stroud: Bogey-free 69 followed by a 77 with a triple and a quad. His scorecard summed up my week: Some good, too much bad.
Freddie Jacobson: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Jacobson was hanging around T20 entering the final round and then shot over par. I believe this is the fifth time in his last six that this has happened. T29.
Kevin Stadler: And the MCs just keep on coming! Anyone else have a disaster on their hands this week or was it just me? Glad I could be of service. #GoodGrief
Charles Howell III: Another week, another made cut and a decent finish, T34. Actually, on this list, THAT’S A GREAT, GREAT FINISH!
What a dumpster fire! Glad that’s out of the system. Plenty of food for thought moving forward to Quail Hollow next week!
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Wells Fargo and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.