CONGRATULATIONS TO JAKE KNAPP FOR ENTRY TO THE PLAYER,MASTER GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

 

Jake Knapp earns entry into The Players, The Masters, PGA Championship and five remaining PGA Tour Signature Events after his maiden victory in Mexico; Sami Valimaki claims second, while Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre finishes tied-sixth

Jake Knapp recovered from blowing a four-shot lead to hold off Sami Valimaki and register a maiden PGA Tour title with a two-shot win in the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

Knapp mixed two birdies with two bogeys during a final-round 71 at Vidanta Vallarta to end the week on 19 under and ahead of Valimaki, who finished runner-up after a two-under 69.

 

Stephan Jaeger and C.T Pan both posted final-round 65s to jump into tied-third on 14 under alongside Justin Lower, while Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre shared sixth place with Patrick Rodgers after a two-under 69.

“Didn’t necessarily have my best stuff today, that’s for sure,” Knapp told Golf Channel. “Knew it was nerve-wracking, knew it was going to be tough. It would have been nice to hit driver better and hit it a little bit better, but was super pumped on how I played in the finishing stretch.”

 

Knapp took a four-shot lead into the final day but gave the chasing pack hope when he bogeyed the first and found water off the third tee on his way to another dropped shot, allowing Valimaki to close within one when he rolled in from 10 feet at the fourth.

Valimaki pulled level when a stunning tee shot at the driveable seventh set up a six-foot eagle, as Knapp got up and down from a greenside bunker to make his first birdie of the day and also move to 18 under.

Knapp holed from 10 feet to save par at the eighth and edged back ahead when Valimaki opened his back nine with a bogey, with the Finn then cancelling out a birdie at the par-five 12th by dropping a shot at the par-three next.

A close-range birdie at the par-five 14th doubled Knapp’s lead, with three pars enough to close out a victory that secured him a place in The Players, The Masters, PGA Championship and the five remaining PGA Tour Signature Events.

Valimaki, who secured his PGA Tour card for his performance on the DP World Tour last season, said: “I feel like I have the game to win over here, it just wasn’t this Sunday. I mean, I was four behind, yesterday was Jake’s day and he kept it going on the back nine, so I feel like I didn’t lose it.”

MacIntyre finished six shots back and defending champion Tony Finau ended in a share of 13th, while England’s Aaron Rai claimed tied-19th and compatriot Matt Wallace – who shared the halfway lead – slipped to joint-33rd after a three-over 74.

The PGA Tour now has a run of four Florida-based events, starting with the Cognizant Classic – formerly know as the Honda Classic – at PGA National. Chris Kirk is defending champion, while Rory McIlroy returns to an event he won in 2012.

 

Gideon Canice

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