McKinney, Texas — KH Lee ran across the fairway, trying to get a better view of his clutch shot in Byron Nelson’s second straight win.
The Korean must have known it was going to be close, as was the low-scoring drama around him, which included hometown favorites Jordan Spieth and several other major winners from Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas.
Lee’s 240-yard shot on the par-5 12th came to within 5 feet of the pin, and the Eagles kept him in the lead on Sunday with a 9-under 63 and birdie Beat Spieth by one shot – Siege TPC Craig Ranch.
Spieth’s 67 put him one shot ahead of Matsuyama (62) and Sebastian Munoz (69), who held or tied the lead for the first three rounds.
Zand Schauffele had a career-best 61 to tie for fifth with Ryan Palmer (66) and Thomas (67), who were under par early in the final round The eight-shot at 20 was tied for the lead.
A year ago, Lee was fighting for a PGA Championship spot, and next week he’ll be back at South Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
This time for a place in history, as the 30-year-old joins Sam Snead (1957-58), Jack Nicklaus (1970-71) and Tom Watson (1978-80) , became Nielsen’s only repeat winner.
Lee’s career-best round overcame a four-shot deficit heading into the final round, putting him at 26 under, one shot up from last year. Both of his PGA Tour victories came from Nelson.
“I still feel like I’m dreaming,” said Lee, who won his first title as a father last year after he won his wife’s pregnancy. “Last year and this year, great memories.”
Spieth had to settle for another career-best finish as he desperately wanted to win, and a year later the three-time Grand Slam champion finished ninth, but in a disappointing final round never really got close.
The final round was very close.
One shot ahead, Lee saved par with a 12-foot arc putt on the par-3 17th after his short cut as Lee tried to gain a foothold in the sand outside the bunker. The rod runs a long way.
Spieth missed a 9-foot birdie putt on No. 17 that would have tied him, and then had to eagle on the par-5 18 after Lee’s birdie. Spieth’s eagle chip was left on the left side of the hole.
After two bogeys on the first three holes, Spieth made another three-putt from within 7 feet on No. 10, and after his stellar tour debut as a Sunday contender as a 16-year-old high school student, The wait will last 12 years.
“I love playing at home. I hope to win it one day,” said Spieth, who earned his start at Hilton Head a week after the Masters. “I have a good chance here and I don’t think I ever really got the lead on my own. But it’s better to close one.”
With a short par 4 and accessible par 5, birdie never stops at TPC Craig Ranch, home of Nelson’s sophomore.
There were 2,228 birdies, the most on the tour last season, after 2,007 birdies a year ago. Eagles are also abundant. Last year, six players shot 20 under. This time it was 14.
Even missing an eagle’s chance was costly, as on the 12th hole, where Munoz’s 6-foot putt rounded the cup and stayed outside, shortly after Lee followed his key shot and made a short putt , he was one shot behind.
Matsuyama, who finished 39th at Nelson last year as the reigning Masters champion, made six birdies in the frontcourt and three in the backcourt before a bogey halted his momentum . The Hawks at No. 18 brought him even closer.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler shared the hometown spotlight with Spieth as a former Texas golfer, shooting a 19-under 69. The No. 1 player has never been a real contender after winning four of his first six individual starts.
Schauffele led the club at 23-under and birdied at 18 just before the final set of turns. The 12th-ranked player said he didn’t intend to hang around for long with such a low score.
At 18, he was free to chase Matsuyama’s eagle to give the 2021 Masters champion a one-shot lead. Still, Schauffele’s turnaround in his first match since teaming up with Patrick Cantley to win the Zurich Classic was remarkable.
The reigning Olympic champion shot 26 under for the final 49 holes, birdied eight from the second-round No. 6 hole, bounced back from 3 over and finished at 5 strokes to advance. He started the final round nine behind.
Schauffele eagled a 97-yard wedge on the short par-4 sixth hole, then birdied eight of the final 11 holes for a 61 or better on the week’s third. Muñoz opened with his second 60 of the season, a first on tour.
“I wasn’t under pressure to score low,” Schauffele said. “Expect the leader to shoot at least five or six (under par) to keep pace. So I’m really just trying to make as many birdies as possible while being smart.”
Justin Lorre recorded the second of two Aces of the round on course 17, hitting a low 9-iron to the right of the pin from 135 yards before the ball backed up and rolled in.
Mark Leishman made his first hole-in-one on the 213-yard 15th hole, hitting the short 7-iron and watching it roll in. It was Leishman’s second career ace and his first at Nelson since Tyler Duncan in 2018.
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