July 19th, 2024

Murray rallies to win Sony Open in 3-way playoff; Taylor finishes 3 shots back

By Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press on January 14, 2024.

HONOLULU (AP) – Grayson Murray stuffed a wedge to three feet for birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-under 67 to join a three-way playoff and then won the Sony Open with a 40-foot birdie putt to set himself up for a potentially lucrative year.

Murray felt like a renewed person even before starting the season in Hawaii. He says he has been sober for eight months and was in a better frame of mine.

But the win – his first in more than six years – came at an ideal time.

The victory not only gets him in the Masters for the first time, Murray now has a spot in the $20 million signature events the rest of the season.

Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., finished in a tie for seventh at 14 under – three shots back of the winner. Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., finished at 13 under and tied for 10th.

Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., tied for 18th at 11 under, while Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., finished tied for 30th at 9 under. Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., tied for 57th at 6 under.

As big as the win was for Murray, it was a tough loss for Byeong Hun An and Keegan Bradley.

An was short of the par-5 18th green in the playoff in thick rough and pitched on to four feet, giving him the best chance at winning. But after Murray made his 40-footer, and Bradley missed his 18-foot birdie putt, An missed the short putt.

An had birdied the 18th in regulation for a 64.

Bradley broke out of a five-way tie with a 20-foot birdie putt on 15th hole. But he had pars the rest of the way for a 67, missing the fairway on the 18th in regulation and hitting a sand wedge some 20 feet short of the pin that took away a good birdie chance.

In the playoff, he was in the best position off the tee. His 5-wood sailed into the hospitality area left of the green, and his pitch came up well short.

Murray ran into trouble with PGA Tour discipline three years ago in Honolulu. He later took to social media to criticize the tour for not helping him with his drinking. There also was a social media spat with Kevin Na when Murray poked fun at Na’s pace of play.

He was angry and his career was going nowhere since winning an opposite-field event at the Barbasol Championship in 2017.

But he’s in a better place now. Murray attributed so much of his calm to becoming a Christian, being engaged and dedicating himself last year to the Korn Ferry Tour with hopes of getting back to the big leagues.

“It’s not easy, you know?” he said. “I wanted to give up a lot of times – give up on myself, give up on the game of golf, give up on life at times. When you get tired of fighting, let someone fight for you.”

Murray earned just under $1.5 million. There are seven signature events left this season, and Murray has a spot in all of them.

“I knew today was not going to change my life,” he said. “But it did change my career.”

Carl Yuan and Russell Henley each closed with a 63 and had their chances.

Henley was at 17 under until he pulled his tee shot left on the 16th, made a strong recovery but ultimately missed a four-foot par putt. On the closing par 5, his drive went into such a deep lie in the rough he had no chance to get near the green and missed a 10-foot birdie chance.

Yuan made his mistake on the par-3 17th, missing the green left and missing a four-foot par putt to fall out of the lead. And he appeared to get a break on the 18th when his second shot sailed into the hospitality area. The ball was never found, but rules officials talking to a few spectators decided it was somewhere in the hospitality area. He was given free relief and escaped with par.

But it didn’t help them. An hit the best approach of the day on the 18th to just inside 15 feet, and two-putt birdie made him the first to reach 17 under. Murray followed with a wedge to three feet for birdie, and Bradley missed his potential winner from just inside 25 feet.

J.T. Poston finished alone in sixth with the round of the week. He closed with a 61 and was among seven players who had a share of the lead at one point.

There was a five-way tie for the lead when the final group was on the 14th hole.

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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