Lee closes with 63 to repeat Byron Nelson

- Adam Schupak

McKINNEY, Texas – On the 17th green at TPC Craig Ranch, staring over a 12foot par putt to maintain a one-stroke lead at the AT&T Byron Nelson, K.H. Lee was so nervous that he did something he does on special occasions: He asked for divine interventi­on.

“I know that that’s a very important putt, so I pray over there,” he said. “Sometimes, like I need to believe in myself, but just need a, ‘Oh, God, like, please.’ ”

Lee’s prayers were answered, and on a hot, sultry afternoon he shot a careerbest 9-under 63 to win the AT&T Byron Nelson for the second straight time.

“It feels like a dream again,” said Lee, who has won both editions of the tournament since it moved to this suburban Dallas layout.

Lee, 30, became the first player to successful­ly defend his title at the AT&T Byron Nelson since Tom Watson in 1978-1980 and joined exclusive company with a couple of other Hall of Famers: Sam Snead in 1957-58 and Jack Nicklaus in 1970-71 are the only other past champions to do so.

Lee got off to a dream start on Sunday, canning a 51-foot birdie at the second hole and holing out from the fringe at the third for what amounted to five birdies in his opening nine holes. He manhandled the four par-5s in 5 under en route to shooting a 72-hole total of 26-under 262 and holding off Jordan Spieth by one stroke.

“That score this afternoon, especially the last closing stretch of holes, is just a phenomenal score,” said Spieth.

As golf stats guru Justin Ray noted, no player in PGA Tour history had won the same 72-hole stroke-play event in back-to-back years with a score of 25 under par or lower before Lee did so.

Lee showed he wouldn’t surrender his title without a fight, firing 64 in the first round and after scores of 68 and 67 he was four back of Sebastian Munoz heading into Sunday.

Lee hadn’t won in the year since bagging his first tour victory and his slump included three straight missed cuts before snapping that skid a week ago at the Wells Fargo Championsh­ip.

Lee vaulted into the lead with an eagle at 12 after he ripped his second shot from 238 yards at the par-5 to within 5 feet. He drained a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 13 and birdie the 18th. Lee gained more than three strokes on the field on the greens and that was the difference. On 17, Lee had an awkward stance in a greenside bunker and blasted out past the hole, praying before making his clutch par putt.

Spieth bogeyed two of his first three holes but ran off four birdies in a fivehole stretch starting at the fifth. His undoing was a three-putt bogey from 7 feet at the 10th, and birdies at 12, 14 and 18 for a 67 weren’t enough.

 ?? RAYMOND CARLIN III/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? K.H. Lee successful­ly defended his AT&T Byron Nelson title with a one-shot win over Jordan Spieth.
RAYMOND CARLIN III/USA TODAY SPORTS K.H. Lee successful­ly defended his AT&T Byron Nelson title with a one-shot win over Jordan Spieth.

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