PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic (AP) — Matt Wallace of England was hugging his caddie again Sunday, not to make good from an argument but to celebrate his first PGA Tour title at the Corales Punta Cana Championship.
Wallace ran off four straight birdies down the stretch on the Corales course at Punta Cana and closed with two solid pars for a 6-under 66.
He was on the putting green when Nicolai Hojgaard, the 22-year-old from Denmark playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff. The putt just missed on the low side, giving the Dane a 68.
Wallace, already a four-time winner on the European tour, finished at 19-under 269 in winning in his 80th career start on the PGA Tour.
His iron play and putting was pivotal, such as the downhill 8-foot birdie putt breaking to the left on the 15th hole that gave him his first lead. Equally important was his attitude. Wallace can run on the hot side and often berates himself.
“Self-talk was very good today,” he said. “I realized at The Players Championship that out of the 145 shots I hit to miss the cut by one, two of those I spoke to myself nicely. That's not going to get the job done.”
He was coming off a tie for seventh last week at the Valspar Championship, memorable only for his play on the 18th off a cart path and then an animated argument with his caddie, Samuel Bernard of France, for asking if Wallace was sure about the shot.
That isn't unusual for Wallace, though it made for good television. They later were seen hugging it out. There was nothing but positive vibes, especially the birdie stretch that began at the 13th hole.
“It's cool. This is cool,” said Wallace as he started to get choked up.
The victory doesn't get the Englishman into the Masters because it was held opposite the WGC-Match Play in Texas. But he is set for the PGA Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions next year at Kapalua.
Hojgaard had a long two-putt birdie on the par-5 14th, and a clutch 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to get within one and have a chance to catch Wallace. His putt narrowly missed, and he had to settle for being the runner-up.
Tyler Duncan (68) and PGA Tour rookie Sam Stevens (69) tied for third.
Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., finished in a tied for 68th at 2-over. Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., finished tied for 70th at 3-over.
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The Associated Press