.J. Spaun kept his overnight lead intact as he captured the first PGA Tour title of his career following a three-under final round.
With Matt Kuchar and Troy Merritt looking to hunt the American down, the 31-year-old produced a great final outing to keep them at bay.
Accompanying the $1.5 million check was something arguably more valuable: a tee time at this year’s Masters – which will be his first appearance.
American Dominated Leaderboard
The first round of the tournament may have belonged to the Europeans, but it did not take long for the Americans to stamp their authority on the event.
Russel Knox led the field after the opening round, carding 65, which was followed by Rasmus Hojgaard’s excellent 66.
Both players succumbed to the pressure the following day, however, as Scotsman Knox could only manage 76 and Hojgaard struggled with 73.
Kevin Chappell carded the best round for Friday, scoring 65 which included five birdies and one eagle, whilst Beau Hossler produced 66.
Dylan Frittelli, a one-time PGA Tour champion, looked to launch a charge for his second victory as he matched Hossler’s 66.
Lucas Glover, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Palmer, Lanto Griffin and Sahith Theegala also carded 66 for the second round, as the leaderboard started to take shape.
Saturday provided several story-lines, although no other was as captivating as the possibility of Hossler securing his maiden tour title.
The young American followed his previous 66 with a glorious 67, as he sat quietly on the summit of the leaderboard heading into Sunday’s finale.
Scott Stallings, Snedeker and Maverick McNealy shared Hossler’s score of 67, but Englishman Aaron Rai had managed to place himself in contention as he recovered from a round of 74 to card 68 the following day.
J. J. Spaun’s First Victory
With both Hossler and Spaun sharing the lead heading into Sunday’s finale, it looked likely that a new champion would be crowned on the PGA Tour.
The former started in poor fashion, carding bogey on the par-5 2nd before he immediately retrieved the stroke lost on the following hole.
Two more birdies on the front nine inspired hope, as he made the turn at two-under for the day and 12-under for the tournament.
Amazingly, Spaun recovered from a first hole double-bogey and notched three birdies on 6, 8 and 9 to make the turn at one-under and just one back from his countryman.
Matt Jones produced a similar display that he effortlessly strung together at PGA National a few years ago, as the Australian carded 66 – the lowest score of the day.
That pushed him to T2 and he would remain there, occupying that final position alongside Kuchar, who started strongly.
After birdieing the opening two holes, consecutive bogeys on 7 and 8 would dampen his hopes of forcing his way into this year’s Masters.
Although he picked up three more strokes on the back nine, it was not enough to secure victory – which was the only result that would see him invited to Augusta.
Adam Hadwin is another player who enjoyed his Sunday, carding 67 that included eight birdies.
He may have given three back after bogeys on 1, 9 and 10, but a strong conclusion, that resulted in him birdieing four of his last five holes, helped the Canadian to a T4 finish.
After a bogey on the 10th hole, Hossler opened the door for Spaun, who responded with two further birdies on the back nine.
Unfortunately, the tournament was lost on the par-5 14th, as Hossler’s double-bogey spelt the end of his maiden title dream.
The 27-year-old played the par-5s at two-over for the final day, which is a stark contrast to Spaun’s performance on the longer holes: finishing two-under on the fives.
This was only Spaun’s second top 10 of the season but he now has the chance to play at Augusta, where a win would change his career forever.
The wait is finally over as The Masters will take place this week and you can read our preview for the season’s first major championship here.