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Pendrith birdies final hole for first PGA Tour win


If there’s one way to get rid of the sting of watching your favourite team be eliminated from the NHL playoffs, it’s winning a PGA Tour event.

Taylor Pendrith, who has battled through injuries throughout his career, finally showed what he can do when he’s healthy by winning the CJ Cup Byron Nelson with a birdie on the final hole. It’s his first tour win which came in his 74th start.

“It's been something that I've been working towards my whole career,” he said, “and to finally get it done feels unbelievable.”

A day after watching his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs lose Game 7 of their series with the Boston Bruins, Pendrith stood on the first tee with a one-shot lead. But he was never able to get more than two strokes ahead of the chasers.

Pendrith made the turn in two-under par but on the back found himself missing a few key birdie opportunities and scrambling to make pars. A cadre of challengers tried to catch him, with playing partners Jake Knapp and Ben Kohles putting pressure on the leader.

On 16, Kohles caught him with a birdie and then a hole later passed him with another after rolling in a 20-foot putt. That gave him a one-shot lead to the final hole. It could have been two, but Pendrith drained a testy six-footer that circled the lip of the cup before dropping to the bottom.

On the final hole, it was Kohles’ time to face the pressure. His second shot on the par-5 hole found the long grass beside the green and he chunked his third, leaving it in worse position. He was only able to pop it on to the green five feet from the cup. Pendrith, meanwhile, found the back of the green and rolled his ball down to three feet.

The finish was as stunning as it was sudden. Kohles missed and had to settle for bogey. Pendrith made birdie and won by a stroke.

“I've never had a putt to win a PGA Tour event, so my caddie said this is the straightest putt we've had all year and just knock it in,” stated Pendrith. “It managed to slip in the left. I'm pretty happy.”

The Richmond Hill, Ont. native’s win makes him the 18th Canadian to win on the PGA Tour and the second this year, joining Nick Taylor, who won the WM Phoenix Open in February. He’s also the sixth different Canadian player to earn a victory in the last seven years.

“I'm not a huge golf history guy, but Byron Nelson is a special name, and for my name to be on that trophy is super special,” he said. “You know, it feels unbelievable, and to see some of those names on this trophy, it's crazy. I still can't believe that I'm a winner of this tournament.”

Most of Pendrith’s career has been plagued by injuries. Some of them have been of the unusual sort, such as a tear in his palm. He also broke a rib during play at the Players Championship. Those have forced him to sit out for extended periods of time and stymieing what had been a burgeoning career.

The latest ailment has been a shoulder problem with a calcium ball in his rotator cuff. He’s played through it while getting non-surgical treatment and only recently has the pain faded and allowed him to swing at full speed.

“It was super frustrating for a long time and just lingering, and I didn't know if it was going to feel great or bad,” Pendrith said. “So, yes, it's very much more rewarding dealing with all of that to come out here and feel good and know my game is good enough to win out here.”

The win, which was worth $1.7 million (U.S.), means a lot will change for Pendrith. He will play in next week’s signature event at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., and has a spot in the PGA Championship. The victory moved him to 58th on the Official World Golf Ranking.

He will also now be very much on the radar for the International team at the Presidents Cup in Montreal in September. That, said Pendrith, is high on his goals for 2024. He played in the last Presidents Cup in 2022.