Sepp Straka endured a hectic closing stretch and a late downpour to become the first Austrian to win on the PGA Tour, shooting a final-round 66 Sunday to claim the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Straka’s bogey-free back nine included birdies at Nos. 14, 16 and 18, the last of which ended up being the difference as he finished 10-under-par 270 and beat Ireland’s Shane Lowry (67 Sunday) by a stroke.
Kurt Kitayama posted a 68 and took third place at 8 under. Daniel Berger yielded a five-shot lead, the largest 54-hole lead in tournament history, and shot a 4-over 74 to place fourth at 7 under.
Straka’s wife flew in Saturday night to join his mother and other family at PGA National Resort and Spa’s Champion Course.
“I didn’t even know Paige was coming down,” Straka said. “So this morning, when I walked down the putting green and saw her there. It was just great to have all of them here to celebrate with me.”
Berger started the day at 11 under, five shots better than Straka and three others at 6 under. Poor sand play at the par-5 third hole led Berger to make double bogey, and he added bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6 to give back four shots and open up the tournament.
Straka played the front nine in 1 under before steadying out for the back nine, including PGA National’s infamous “Bear Trap” of holes 15-17. At the par-4 16th, Straka made a nearly 19-foot birdie putt from off the green to tie Lowry for the lead at 9 under.
A heavy rainstorm popped up as Straka and Kitayama walked to their second shots at the par-5 18th and Berger and Lowry approached the 18th tee. Through the rain, both Straka and Kitayama managed to reach the green in two and two-putt for birdies, which put Straka out in front.
“For a little while there, the wind let down before the rain started and it was kind of nice,” Straka said. “But then on the last hole, that second shot into the green it just started pouring rain.”
“It was pretty hectic,” said Kitayama, who would have needed an eagle and a Straka par for any hope of making a playoff. “I was hoping it was going to die down a little bit, but it really didn’t.”
Lowry missed his tee shot at 18 badly left. He managed to recover and reach the green in three shots, but his 42-foot birdie putt to force a playoff was just off.
Berger could have induced a playoff by eagling the hole, but his second shot missed the green and landed in the water. He went on to bogey the hole.
“Yeah, just a poor round. It can happen at any time,” Berger said. “I’m not going to dwell on it too much. I don’t think I made a single putt today. I don’t know what happened.”
Kitayama entered the week No. 289 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He has won three events in Europe and Asia, but his third-place finish marks his best showing on the PGA Tour.
Gary Woodland (67) and Sweden’s Alex Noren (68) tied for fifth at 4 under. Chris Kirk (73) and another Austrian, Matthias Schwab (68), finished 3 under in a tie for seventh.