In the top 20

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Bay­lor School grad­u­ate Keith Mitchell tosses a ball to his caddy on the first green dur­ing the fi­nal round of the PGA Tour’s Sony Open on Sun­day in Hon­olulu. Mitchell closed with a 2-over-par 72 and tied for 16th as Matt Kuchar won the tour­na­ment.

HON­OLULU — Matt Kuchar over­came three early bo­geys that cost him the lead with flaw­less golf and two key birdies on the back nine, clos­ing with a 4-un­der-par 66 to win the Sony Open for his sec­ond PGA Tour ti­tle of the 2018-19 sea­son.

It wasn’t as easy as his four-shot vic­tory over An­drew Put­nam might in­di­cate.

Hav­ing made only one bo­gey through 54 holes to build a two-shot lead, Kuchar had three bo­geys in his open­ing five holes Sun­day and fell one shot be­hind Put­nam, and he had to make a 10-foot birdie putt at the turn to avoid fall­ing two shots be­hind.

Kuchar caught him with an ag­gres­sive pitch up the slope on the par-4

10th hole. They re­mained tied with five holes to play when Put­nam made bo­gey from a deep bunker left of the 14th green, and Kuchar

made a pair of 12-foot birdie putts on the next two holes to seize con­trol.

Just like that, his lead was three shots, mak­ing

for a pleas­ant walk up the par-5 18th.

Kuchar be­came the first mul­ti­ple win­ner on the PGA Tour this sea­son, hav­ing ended a drought of more than four years when he cap­tured the Mayakoba Clas­sic in Mex­ico last Novem­ber. It was only the sec­ond time in his PGA Tour ca­reer Kuchar has won twice in the same sea­son. He won the Match Play Cham­pi­onship and the Me­mo­rial in 2013.

And now the for­mer Ge­or­gia Tech stand­out has the meat of the sea­son in front of him.

“I want to see how great this year can be,” Kuchar said.

He fin­ished at 22-un­der 258, the third-low­est to­tal in Wa­ialae Coun­try Club his­tory be­hind the PGA Tour record of 253 by Justin Thomas in 2017 and Jimmy Walker’s 72-hole score of 257 when he won in 2015.

Put­nam, who won his first PGA Tour ti­tle last sum­mer at the Bar­racuda Cham­pi­onship, didn’t blink un­til that ap­proach into the bunker that led to his lone bo­gey, and he couldn’t make enough putts to stay close to Kuchar the rest of the way. He closed with a 68 and moved into the top 50 in the World Golf Rank­ing for the first time in his ca­reer.

Four play­ers tied for third, though none had a se­ri­ous chance of chal­leng­ing what amounted to a two-player race at the top.

Three Bay­lor School grad­u­ates were among the top 30 en­ter­ing the fi­nal round. Keith Mitchell (72) tied for 16th at 12 un­der, Har­ris English (67) wound up shar­ing 22nd at 10 un­der and Stephan Jaeger (70) tied for 43rd at 7 un­der.

AP PHOTO/MATT YORK

AP PHOTO/MATT YORK

Matt Kuchar hits from the sec­ond tee dur­ing the fi­nal round of the Sony Open on Sun­day in Hon­olulu. Kuchar won by four strokes.

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