AVONDALE, La. — As Seung-Yul Noh exhaled and tilted his head back in a skyward gaze on the 18th green, his South Korean countryman and fellow PGA Tour player, Y.E. Yang, charged toward him, spraying him with bottled beer.
Noh smiled, removed his hat, held both arms out and soaked it all in.
The 22-year-old overcame windy conditions and the pressure that goes with attempting to secure a maiden PGA Tour triumph, shooting a 1-under 71 on Sunday to win the Zurich Classic by two shots.
He also knew he achieved another goal of providing some joy to a nation that has been reeling since a passenger ship capsized April 16, leaving 300 missing or dead.
“Hopefully, they’ll be happy,” said Noh, who wore black and yellow ribbons on his white golf hat to honor victims of the ferry accident.
While Noh, the leader through three rounds, never fell out of first, he did make his first three bogeys of the tournament and briefly fell into a tie with Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner who had the gallery behind him.
But Bradley did himself in with a bogey on the fifth hole and a triple bogey on the sixth.
“I actually played pretty well,” Bradley said. “Just made one bad swing on 6 and had a bunch of lip-outs.”
Noh remained steady enough – even with wind gusting up to 30 mph – to hold off the remaining challengers.
“Very challenging today out there, especially playing with Keegan, a major champion, and heavy wind,” Noh said.
Noh needed a few clutch shots on the back nine, including a chip out of a grassy downhill lie on the edge of a bunker on 13, which hit the flag on a bounce, setting up a routine birdie putt. On 16, with wind in his face, Noh landed his approach 3 feet from the hole to set up his last birdie, then made a 14-foot par putt on 17 to assure a two-shot cushion on the final hole, uncharacteristically pumping his first afterward.
“Yeah, that was a clutch putt,” Noh said, explaining that it left him “very comfortable” on 18.
Noh had made 77 previous PGA Tour starts, never finishing better than tied for fourth at the 2012 AT&T National.
Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb tied for second. Svoboda had a 69. Streb shot 70, including an eagle on the second hole, and was one shot off the lead after a birdie on 8, but his tee shot was pushed into water by a crosswind on the par-3 ninth hole, and he made double-bogey.
Jeff Overton, who briefly pulled within a stroke of Noh on the back nine, had a 70 to finish fourth at 16 under.
Bradley wound up with a 75 to tie for eighth at 13 under.
Levy wins first European Tour title
SHENZHEN, China — Alexander Levy of France held on to win his maiden European Tour title at the China Open on Sunday, recovering from a late double bogey to shoot a 69 and beat Tommy Fleetwood by four strokes.
The 23-year-old Levy, playing in his second year on tour, vaulted into the lead with a career-best 10-under 62 in the second round, then held off a late challenge from Fleetwood in the final round to take home his first trophy. He carded a 19-under 269 overall
Lydia Ko holds on to win Swinging Skirts
DALY CITY, Calif. — Lydia Ko birdied the final hole for her third LPGA Tour victory and first as a professional, holding off Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin on Sunday in the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
It went down to the final shots, and the poised teen made a 5-foot birdie putt moments before Lewis knocked in a birdie of her own to finish one stroke back.
After beginning the day one stroke behind Lewis, Ko birdied three of her final four holes on the front nine on the way to a 3-under 69 and 12-under 276 total at Lake Merced.
Ko takes home $270,000, celebrating on the 18th green three days after celebrating her 17th birthday at the first tee box with a “Happy Birthday” song from the gallery.
Ko will move up two spots to No. 2 in the next world ranking.